After sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers (3-0), Sacramento Kings (4-0), and San Antonio Spurs (4-0), the Los Angeles Lakers were stunned by the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. Despite Shaquille O’Neal’s 44 points and 20 rebounds, league MVP Allen Iverson’s 48 points led the 76ers to a 107-101 overtime win.
With Los Angeles losing home-court advantage and in unfamiliar position during their historic playoff run, most anticipated a dominant performance to even up the series before the Finals returned to Philadelphia for the first time since 1983.
In Game 2, the Lakers found themselves in another highly-contested matchup as they only held a 49-47 lead at halftime. Fortunately, they were able to distance themselves in the third quarter en route to a 98-89 win.
With the Lakers able to limit Iverson to 23 points (10-of-29 shooting), O’Neal had another historical performance. Along with 28 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, O’Neal had eight blocks.
It tied a record for most in an NBA Finals game, joining Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing.
Led by O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers would go on to win all three games in Philadelphia and became the first team to win back-to-back championships since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls. Most importantly, Los Angeles made league history as they had the highest win percentage in the playoffs (93.8).
O’Neal also captured his second consecutive Finals MVP award after averaging 33.0 points, 15.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.4 blocks in 45.0 minutes.
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