Allen Iverson already has been double teamed by the Indiana Pacers on the court. Now he’ll have to deal with a whole crowd of loud, hostile fans, too. Pacers fans, remembering his last visit to Indianapolis, will be merciless. And he knows it. “I know it’s going to be rough, but it’s been like that throughout my career at certain places,” the 76ers guard said Friday about returning to Conseco Fieldhouse. “But that’s what it’s all about and what makes it so fun. The fans talk, but when you’re on the court, you get to do your talking by playing basketball.” Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series is Saturday. Indiana and Philadelphia split the first two games. Game 4 will be here Wednesday night, with a fifth and deciding game, if necessary, back in Philadelphia next Friday. Iverson was fined US$5,000 by the National Basketball Association for shouting a derogatory remark about gays toward Pacers fans who were taunting him during his last regular-season appearance in Indianapolis.
But he said he was only responding to repeated insults and racial slurs from the crowd behind the 76ers’ bench. The Pacers interviewed security personnel and ushers working in that area and found no one who heard any racial taunts. The team did beef up security at all their games after that. “I’d rather talk with my game, and that’s why I’m looking forward to Game 3,” Iverson said. “Regardless if they have people in there with bullhorns, you just have to get out of there with a W.”’ Iverson said he wasn’t concerned about security at Conseco. “I’m not thinking about that incident. It’s been blown out of proportion because it was on NBC,” he said.
“When it’s me and something negative, it’s like, ‘Let’s talk about this issue.’ I get the last laugh when we get the win.” Philadelphia was eliminated by Indiana in the playoffs each of the past two years, but the 76ers won all three regular-season games against the Pacers this season and compiled the best record in the East and the best road record in the NBA. Iverson had 45 points in a 116-98 victory in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, overcoming the Pacers’ constant double-teaming efforts that worked so well in Game 1. “Defensively, we’ll try a couple of different things,” Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said.
“We’ll give him some different looks, try to keep him off balance during the game and make him read some situations.” Indiana’s Reggie Miller, who had 41 points on Tuesday — only eight in the second half, when Philadelphia took control — said he admires Iverson’s toughness. “He’s a gamer,” Miller said. “They say he’ll be out a month and he’s back in a week. That’s what I like about Allen, that he’s tough. I like tough kids.” Sixers coach Larry Brown said he would talk to Iverson about not letting the fans get to him. “I don’t look at what happened as a typical thing in Indiana,” said Brown, a former Pacers coach. “They have far more knowledgeable basketball fans who appreciate Allen for who he is and what he does. A couple people who don’t respect the game, or the people involved, spoil it for everyone else.”