Work in Sports
Big guy's big game
Shaq's 46 points power Lakers past Kings
Posted: Monday April 24, 2000 03:28 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Ron Harper, who knows how it feels to play with an all-time great on championship teams, did not mince words when asked about Shaquille O'Neal.
"Awesome, Shaq had an awesome game," Harper said after O'Neal equaled a playoff career high with 46 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 117-107 victory over the pesky Sacramento Kings on Sunday to begin the playoffs. "He IS the best."
O'Neal, a virtual lock for his first NBA Most Valuable Player award, also had 17 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 54-37 advantage in that department and five blocked shots.
Many in the sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center chanted, "MVP, MVP," in the final minute of play, after O'Neal had been taken out of the game.
The 28-year-old O'Neal hasn't won an NBA championship, and has said repeatedly that's his main priority.
His chances look pretty good under first-year Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who coached the Chicago Bulls to six titles in the 1990s -- none before Michael Jordan turned 28.
Harper played on the final three title teams.
"This is the best time of the season," he said. "We won the first game; the countdown has started -- one down, 14 to go."
Game 2 in the best-of-five series will be played Thursday night, and Sacramento will host the third game next Sunday.
"We're on a mission here," O'Neal said. "It's a different season, a different kind of focus."
Of Jackson, O'Neal said, "He's prepared us very well. We watch a lot of film. We live, eat and breathe the team we're going to play."
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points and Glen Rice added 18 for the Lakers, who haven't won a championship since 1988. Harper had seven points, four assists and nine rebounds, including six of his team's 25 offensive boards.
When asked the last time he accomplished that feat, he smiled and replied, "In my dreams, believe me."
Said Kings center Vlade Divac: "A big thing we didn't do today was rebound well; that's the reason why we lost the game. When you let a team like the Lakers have those kind of opportunities, you're dead."
Chris Webber, plagued by foul problems, led the Kings with a career playoff high of 28 points and had five rebounds before fouling out with 6:53 left.
"We're the underdogs; just let us have a shot, call the game right," Webber said. "I fouled out with three or four offensive fouls and played 27 minutes in one of the biggest games of my life, and that doesn't feel good."
Jackson also had a gripe with the officiating, pointing to the fact that the Kings made 26-of-35 free throws while his team tried only 14 and made 10. O'Neal was just 4-of-5.
"The officials demonstrated there wouldn't be a lot of fouls called on Shaq; he would have to make his shots," Jackson said.
Jason Williams added 20 points and Tony Delk scored 17 for the Kings. Both were career playoff highs.
The Kings dropped three of four games to the Lakers this season, but lost by only three, one and seven points, while winning by 12.
The Kings trailed by 16 points when Webber fouled out, but scored 10 straight -- the final five by Divac -- to make it 105-99 with 4:33 remaining. But that's as close as the Kings would get.
Bryant beat the shot clock with a jumper and, after Divac missed two free throws, O'Neal made a short bank shot and a dunk to make it 111-99 with 3:03 left.
"I don't think the game was officiated the same way at both ends of the court," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "There is no doubt that Shaquille O'Neal is a great player, but they do not officiate the game the same for him with all his strength as they do for everybody else."
Webber picked up his fifth foul, and a technical as well, with 1:14 left in the third quarter and the Lakers up 86-76. It was 91-79 entering the final period, and Webber fouled out two seconds after returning to the game.
The Kings entered the series with history against them as well as the Lakers. Since the 16-team playoff format was instituted 16 years ago, the underdogs have won just two of the 32 first-round series between No. 1 and No. 8 seeds.
Notes: Jackson's 112-41 record (.732) in playoff games is the best
in NBA history, percentage-wise. ... The Lakers, whose 67-15
regular-season record gives them home-court advantage throughout
the playoffs, finished 23 games ahead of the Kings (44-38). ... In
the last 20 years, 15 teams who had the best regular-season record
advanced to the NBA Finals, and 11 won the championship. ... The
Lakers won 16 of their past 17 regular-season games at Staples
Center, and their 36-5 home record tied Indiana for the NBA's best.
... The Kings lost 14 of their final 17 away games to finish 14-27
on the road. ... The Kings led the NBA in scoring this season,
averaging 105 points per game, but they allowed 102. The Lakers
ranked sixth in scoring with a 100.8-point average and gave up
92.3. ... The franchises last met in the playoffs 16 years ago,
when the Kings were based in Kansas City, and Los Angeles swept
that first-round series 3-0. The Kings moved to Sacramento the