Originally created 06/09/01

O'Neal, Lakers dominate 76ers



LOS ANGELES - Shaquille O'Neal was at his best, Kobe Bryant was much better than last game and the Los Angeles Lakers built a big enough lead to hold off the no-quit Philadelphia 76ers.

Tying the NBA record for blocked shots in a finals game, O'Neal had 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks as the Lakers evened the NBA Finals at one game apiece with a 98-89 victory Friday night.

Bryant had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists - as well as an earful of trash talk from Allen Iverson in the final seconds.

The series grew more testy and confrontational in a game the Lakers controlled most of the way. But after O'Neal picked up his fifth foul with 6:38 remaining, Philadelphia used a 13-3 run to close within three points with 2:22 left.

O'Neal then got his ninth assist on a 3-pointer by Derek Fisher, and Bryant fed Robert Horry for a basket from close in that gave the Lakers a 94-86 lead with 1:19 left. O'Neal's jump hook with 28 seconds left gave Los Angeles an eight-point lead that all but sealed the victory.

The series resumes Sunday night in Philadelphia, where Iverson will try to make a bigger contribution. He was held to 23 points, primarily because of Fisher's defense, and missed all four of his free throw attempts.

O'Neal tied the finals record for blocks held by Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing.

"They are playing at a high level. In Philly, they will be playing at a higher level," said O'Neal, who seemed to be leading the Lakers to a romp before picking up his third, fourth and fifth fouls in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Lakers made only two baskets over the next five minutes, 3-pointers by Brian Shaw and Fisher that kept the 76ers from catching up.

Iverson left the game with 19 seconds left and spent the rest of the time yelling at the Lakers, who were again heavy favorites despite their loss in the opener.

Bryant bounced back from his 7-for-22 shooting performance in Game 1, going 11-for-23 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line. Fisher, who was scoreless in the opener, added 14.

Dikembe Mutombo had 16, Aaron McKie 14, Todd MacCulloch 13 and Eric Snow 12 for the 76ers, whose balanced scoring was a surprise.

The primary reason for it was their inability to get the ball to Iverson as much as they wanted because of Fisher's tight defense.

Iverson missed his first four shots before hitting a fast-break reverse layup and then tossing a behind-the-back pass to Jumaine Jones for a 3-pointer and a 13-10 lead.

Mutombo and Tyrone Hill picked up their second fouls in the ninth minute of the first quarter and sat out until midway through the second. But the Sixers didn't let the Lakers take advantage and actually outscored them by seven points before the two starters returned with 6 1/2 minutes left before halftime.

O'Neal had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Bryant had 16, giving Los Angeles a 49-47 halftime lead.

The Lakers played from ahead for most of the third quarter as O'Neal had five of his blocks, the last of which led to a fast-break layup by Bryant for a 72-65 lead. Fisher then came up with consecutive steals, turning one of them into an impressive dunk over Iverson for a nine-point lead.

Fisher made a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to give the Lakers a 10-point lead, 77-67.

Iverson finally attempted his first free throws with 10:31 left in the fourth quarter but missed both, and Bryant made a wide-open 3-pointer for an 82-70 lead with about nine minutes left.

The Lakers answered a 3-pointer by Iverson with an alley-oop dunk by O'Neal off a pass from Bryant, and their lead grew to 13 by the time O'Neal picked up his fifth foul with 6:38 left.

The 76ers went to the foul line seven times before O'Neal returned with 5:22 left, but Raja Bell missed three of those attempts. McKie scored off a steal by Snow to make it 86-80 before Shaw gave the Lakers some breathing room by sinking a 3-pointer from the left corner with the Staples Center crowd falling almost completely silent as the ball was in the air.

The 76ers scored the next four points but Iverson missed two more foul shots with 3:04 left and a chance to cut the deficit to three. O'Neal missed at the other end and Mutombo put in a short bank shot with 2:22 left to make it 89-86, but O'Neal earned his ninth assist on Fisher's 3-pointer, giving Los Angeles a six-point lead with 2:07 left.

Notes: Lakers forward Rick Fox, who refused to cut his hair during this team's 19-game winning streak, trimmed about an inch. ... Brown used 11 of his available players by the fourth minute of the second quarter. ... O'Neal also drew a technical foul from referee Steve Javie between the third and fourth quarters.