NBA: Looking back at the thrilling 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the 76ers-Raptors

Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson (MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson (MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Looking back at the thrilling series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors in the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors was epic. It was a five-star seven-game blockbuster of a series. And oh yeah, one more thing. Two of the NBA’s elite players, Allen Iverson faced off against Vince Carter on one of the league’s grandest stages.

It was one of the most significant – and historic – battles ever. While Iverson was carrying the Sixers on his back, Carter was electrifying the state of Canada on their historic playoff run. It’s a shame that one team’s journey had to end.

Game 1 was close. However, the 76ers shot poorly and ultimately fell into a 0-1 series hole. Even though Iverson had 36 points, he missed 23 shots in the process. Game 2 wound up as a nail-biter also. Going down to the last minutes, the Sixers needed some heroics from their MVP. And that’s exactly what Iverson was, The Answer.

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Iverson would go on to put up huge numbers, 54 points. It would replace the original franchise record of 50 points by Billy Cunningham. His counterpart, Vince Carter, would put up 28 on this night. The 76ers would tie the series at one game apiece.

Game 3 was all Vince Carter. As he was, “Half-Man, Half Amazing!” In the first half, Carter would break a record with eight 3-pointers. He finished with nine on the night and finished with 50 points to help the Raptors regain a 2-1 series advantage.

Game 4 was as well. With less than two minutes to play, Aaron McKie hit a big bucket to put the finishing touches on the Raptors to even the series at two games apiece. Iverson finished with 30 points; Carter had 25 points.

Just before Game 5, Iverson was awarded the NBA MVP trophy. Allen Iverson would honor the award by putting up another 50-plus point night. Riding the momentum of their MVP, the Sixers won Game 5 by 33 points to take a 3-2 series lead.

In a closeout game, Vince Carter, once again, rose to the occasion. Leading his team with 39 points, the Raptors used a double-digit win to force a decisive Game 7.

In Game 7, as expected, Allen Iverson was exhilarating. He was scoring, distributing, and driving in and around defenders. He finished with 21 points and 16 assists.

Although, it came down one final shot from Vince Carter. A shot to not only win the game but to clinch the series for the Raptors and send them to the Eastern Conference Finals.

As time expired, Carter’s game-winning attempt fell short and the Sixers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals to face-off against the Milwaukee Bucks. As history would remember, the Sixers would also advance to the NBA Finals after another seven-game thrilling series against the Bucks in the conference finals.

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This Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between the Sixers and Raptors – specifically, Iverson and Carter – will forever be remembered in the history books. It’s certainly one that I’ll remember for a long time.