Work in Sports
Lakers hit from everywhere in Game 4 win
Posted: Monday May 29, 2000 10:04 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- So many coaches have tried to make Shaquille O'Neal a better free-throw shooter. After his 3-year-old daughter Taahirah's advice, he was perfect.
"Of course, she really doesn't know the game, but today I called her and said, 'Daddy loves you,'" O'Neal said, "and she said 'Good luck, Daddy, and bend your knees,' so that game is for her."
O'Neal, who usually shoots about 50 percent from the line, was 9-for-9 from there Sunday, including 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter, as the Los Angeles Lakers used a dominant second half to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-91 and take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
"I felt like Pete Maravich -- that guy from LSU," O'Neal said, grinning at the reference to his old school.
Glen Rice celebrated his 33rd birthday with his biggest game of the playoffs for the Lakers, who can advance to the finals for the first time since 1991 with a homecourt victory on Tuesday.
"We always knew if we play the type of game that we're capable of playing, we can win anywhere," O'Neal said. "I think certain people forgot that we were a pretty good road team."
Rice scored 21 points as the Lakers swept two on the road from the Blazers, who had been 5-0 at home in the postseason before this awful weekend.
"I told Glen to do the same thing I did on my birthday," O'Neal said. "On my birthday, I shot it every time. I told him, 'When you get it, shoot it.'"
Rice scored 12 points in the decisive third quarter. Since his arrival in Los Angeles last season, Rice has had a hard time fitting in. Not so Sunday.
"The third quarter was definitely the most I've felt being in the flow," Rice said. "They were looking for me and setting screens. It was a lot of fun. ... If I can get people to set screens like that for me, I can have a field day."
O'Neal had 25 points and 11 rebounds, but his most remarkable statistic came from the foul line.
"I told him he needs to frame that little stat sheet," teammate Kobe Bryant said. "He told me he was hot. He said, 'Bring it to me. I feel good. I'm feeling it.'"
A 52-percent free-throw shooter in the regular season and 45 percent in the playoffs, O'Neal made Portland coach Mike Dunleavy's Hack-a-Shaq tactic look silly with his perfection at the line.
"The defensive strategy to foul Shaq really backfired today on them," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, "and it really sewed the game up for us."
Bryant had 18 points, despite 5-for-15 shooting, along with seven assists for the Lakers, while Ron Harper, who hit the game-winner in Game 3, also scored 18 points, his most in these playoffs.
"They made a lot of shots," Dunleavy said. "They made all their free throws. We played an excellent first half but shot ourselves in the foot. We missed five or six open layups."
The Lakers were 31-for-34 at the foul line and could have set a franchise record had John Salley not missed two free throws late in the game.
Rasheed Wallace had career playoff-highs of 34 points and 13 rebounds, including 18 points in the fourth quarter, but he didn't get much help when the Blazers needed it most. Steve Smith scored 20 points, Arvydas Sabonis had 14 and Scottie Pippen 11. However, Pippen was just 4-for-12 from the field and committed five turnovers.
Only six teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series.
"I know in my heart we can still win this series," Wallace said. "We just have to stay alive. We've got to win Tuesday or we'll start working on next season."
The Lakers shot 70 percent (14-for-20) in the third quarter, outscoring Portland 34-19 to take a 76-66 lead entering the fourth. The Blazers shot 29 percent (5-for-17) in the third.
"They played a great game today," Pippen said. "I don't know that if we played well, it could have helped us, as well as they played."
Rice had averaged just 9.2 points per game in the series and 12.4 in the playoffs.
Los Angeles trailed 47-42 at halftime. But Rice hit a 3-pointer and a 21-footer to trigger a 9-1 spurt that put Los Angeles up 55-52 with 7:01 left in the third.
The Lakers scored nine in a row at the end of the third and start of the fourth to take an 80-66 lead on Robert Horry's layup with 7:01 to play. Portland's Bonzi Wells missed two free throws, and Sabonis couldn't make an open layup during the run.
With Rice on the bench with four fouls, Wallace scored six consecutive points to cut it to 80-72 with 8:37 to play, but Portland never got any closer.
Much as they did in Game 3, the Blazers were strong early, taking a 17-6 lead.
But Portland missed four uncontested layups in the first 15 Minutes, and the Lakers used a 17-2 run to take 31-27 lead on Bryant's 3-pointer with 7:22 left in the half. Eight of the Lakers' points in the run came on offensive rebounds.
Then it was Portland's turn. Wallace, after a 2-for-9 start, had a three-point play and a 3-pointer in a 10-0 run as the Blazers went up 37-31.
Portland led 47-42 at the break on Smith's third 3-pointer 1.2 seconds before the buzzer.
Notes: The Lakers were without reserve guard Brian Shaw, suspended
from the game for leaving the bench during a fracas between Pippen
and Rick Fox in Game 2. Near the end of the game, O'Neal donned
Shaw's jersey on the bench. ... Pippen had three steals and is
three short of the career playoff record of 376 held by Michael
Jordan. ... Bryant was scoreless in the first quarter, missing all
three of his shots after scoring 14 in the first quarter of Game 3.
... Pippen and Dunleavy both drew technicals from Bennett
Salvatore. .. Portland's Greg Anthony had three fouls in four
minutes on the court in the first half. ... Los Angeles was called
for illegal defense three times. ... Portland is 1-7 in the
conference finals, 0-4 at home, the past two seasons. ... The
Lakers' reserves outscored Portland's 19-8.