Originally created 05/08/00

Suns can't hang with Shaq, Lakers



LOS ANGELES -- Just about every member of the Phoenix Suns, or so it seemed, took a turn guarding Shaquille O'Neal on Sunday.

After the first quarter, no one had much luck.

O'Neal overcame a slow start to score 37 points, grab 14 rebounds and block four shots as the Los Angeles Lakers trounced the Suns 105-77 in the opener of their Western Conference semifinals.

Game 2 will be played Wednesday night at Staples Center before the best-of-seven series moves to Phoenix for Games 3 and 4.

Kobe Bryant added 25 points for the Lakers. Anfernee Hardaway led the Suns with 25 points, while Cliff Robinson, who battled foul problems, added 13 and rookie Shawn Marion had 12.

Jason Kidd, playing just his second game since breaking his left ankle March 22, was held to three points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Rodney Rogers, voted the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, was only 3-of-13 from the field and scored seven points.

O'Neal made the game's first shot before missing his final six attempts in the first quarter, when he scored four points.

After that, with the likes of Luc Longley, Robinson, Corie Blount, Oliver Miller, Rogers, and occasionally others, trying to defend him, the Suns had minimal success.

O'Neal's dominance was never more evident than one sequence early in the third quarter. He missed from close range, got the rebound over Longley, missed again, got the rebound again, and scored.

Five straight points by O'Neal gave the Lakers a 69-54 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter, and shortly thereafter, the sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center broke out the chant of "MVP, MVP."

It was 75-60 entering the final quarter, and the Lakers then went on a 15-4 run to clinch the victory. O'Neal came out of the game for good with 4:25 remaining.

The Suns, who hurt themselves by committing 23 turnovers to 12 for the Lakers, entered the game rested, having eliminated the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs last Tuesday night.

The Lakers, meanwhile, were extended to five games by Sacramento, winning the finale 113-86 Friday night.

Those factors turned out to be of little consequence as the Lakers made it five wins in as many games against the Suns this season, and 17-3 in the last 20 games between the teams.

Trail Blazers -- 94
Jazz -- 75

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Scottie Pippen sensed the Utah Jazz were fading, and that's when he and the Portland Trail Blazers went on the attack.

Pippen scored nine of his 20 points over the final nine minutes as the Blazers pulled away for an easy victory in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals.

Utah has lost its last 12 playoff games in Portland dating to the 1992 conference finals.

The Jazz were playing on less than two days' rest after struggling past Seattle in Game 5 of their first-round series Friday night. The Blazers had four days off, and Utah's exhaustion showed.

The Jazz missed nine of their first 10 shots in the fourth quarter and shot 33 percent for the period -- slightly worse than the 37 percent they shot for the game. The Blazers led 65-61 to start the fourth quarter, but Pippen's aggressiveness helped put the game away.

His short turnaround jumper extended the lead to 71-63 with 8:36 remaining. Pippen hit a 3-pointer to make it 80-67, and Greg Anthony sealed it with two free throws, a layup and 3-pointer for an 87-71 lead with 3:48 to go.

Karl Malone scored 22 points for Utah despite injuring his left knee on a freak play late in the second quarter. Malone was sitting on the bench when teammate Armen Gilliam dived for a rebound and crashed into Malone's chair. Malone came out limping slightly in the third quarter, but played the rest of the way.