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Original Issue

The First Dance Game 1 of the opening round gave a rookie coach and four players who had never reached the postseason a tantalizing taste of what they had been missing THE SUPERSTAR Allen Iverson/76ERS

Ann Iverson could tell that her son, Allen, was looking forward
to Sunday. He shut the motors down on Saturday. That was how she
could tell.

"That boy, he's g-o, go, all the time," Ann said on Sunday
afternoon. "You know how he is on the court, running around?
That's how he is the rest of the time, too. On Saturday, though,
he didn't go anywhere. He ate his meal in his hotel room, took
his vitamins. He had his hairstylist come to the room. He didn't
go anywhere."

On the road Allen, the Philadelphia 76ers' superstar guard,
usually calls the front desk for a VCR, looking to put his head
in a movie. This time he put his head in basketball.

"All he watched was sports," Ann said. "ESPN, CNN, NBC, TNT,
wherever there was sports. He watched the highlights of those
Saturday games a million times. He never does that before a game."

His 12:30 p.m. date on Sunday with the Orlando Magic at the
O-rena was his playoff coming-out party, at the end of his third
NBA season. Last Thursday he had become, at 6 feet, the shortest
player to lead the league in scoring. This was an
accomplishment, to be sure, but the playoffs...ah, they're
another matter.

"What's bigger than butterflies?" Iverson said on Sunday. "A
buzzard? I had a buzzard in my stomach. I slept a little, but I
kept waking up. I was up at 5:30 in the morning, ready to go."

He thought the butterflies--the buzzard--would go away after the
tip-off, as they usually do, but the nervousness stayed for two
minutes, three minutes, four. He clanked a 20-foot jumper. He
made a pass that was intercepted. His man, Darrell Armstrong,
shook free for a pair of three-pointers. He lost the ball. Was
this how the playoffs were going to be? Nerve-racking? Different?

With 6:51 left in the first period, he took a pass from center
Matt Geiger and hit a 17-footer. Never mind. Basketball is

"It was the Allen Iverson Show, as usual," Magic coach Chuck
Daly said after Iverson's 30 points and seven assists had led
the sixth-seeded Sixers to a 104-90 win over the third-seeded
Magic. "It doesn't matter what you do to him, who you have guard
him, he's going to get his 25 points or more."

The smallest man on the floor was his usual, dominating self.
Orlando tried four men on him--Armstrong, Nick Anderson, Penny
Hardaway and Matt Harpring--and none of them could keep up with
his pell-mell pace. Even when he was hurried into bad shots
because big men jumped out to double-team him, the hole the big
men left was filled by Philadelphia rebounders, who piled up a
57-36 advantage on the boards. Even his bad shots (he was 12 of
29 shooting) weren't really bad.

"This was the best," the 23-year-old Iverson said afterward. "I
won state championships in football and basketball in high
school. I went to the Dance in college. I played in the World
Youth Games. Nothing compares to this. Nothing."

He finished the day by giving his game shoes to Ann. He already
had given her a Rolex watch and a birthstone ring for Mother's
Day, but there was little doubt which was her favorite gift. She
said this was going to be the first pair of his shoes she was
going to save.

"Look at me," Ann said. "I've got these shoes under my arm,
still wet inside from the game, and I left my pocketbook just
lying on the floor somewhere in this arena. And there's money in
it, too."

--Leigh Montville