Work in Sports
Shaq, Lakers dominate Pacers to take Game 1
Posted: Saturday June 17, 2000 06:12 PM
LOS ANGELES -- It shouldn¹t be as easy as Shaquille O¹Neal makes it look.
The Lakers center showed why he was named league MVP, dominating the game with 43 points and 19 rebounds as Los Angeles jumped out to a big first-quarter lead, then staved off Indiana¹s late third-quarter charge to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals, 104-87, at the Staples Center.
"I just got the ball in deep position and took high-percentage shots," said O'Neal. "If those shots are falling, we're going to be a tough team to beat."
O'Neal proved impossible to stop, against both single- and double-coverage, as he made 21 of 31 shots. His 21 field goals were one short of the NBA Finals record, shared by Laker Elgin Baylor and San Francisco Warrior Rick Barry. It was Shaq¹s third 40-point game of the Playoffs.
In stark contrast, Indiana¹s big gun, Reggie Miller, never got in rhythm, missing his first seven shots and finishing the night with a career playoff-low seven points on one-for-16 shooting.
The Pacers cut the lead to 71-69 late in the third, but Shaq took over, scoring on a dunk and dishing out two assists in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Lakers closed the game on a 33-18 run.
Kobe Bryant added 14 points, Ron Harper had 12 and Rick Fox 11 for the Lakers, who also dominated the boards, outrebounding the Pacers, 48-36.
Mark Jackson led Indiana with 18 points, while Austin Croshere added 16 and Jalen Rose and Rik Smits had 12 apiece.
Los Angeles outrebounded Indiana 48-36 and controlled the game in so many ways, giving credence to those who argued that the Lakers present too many matchup problems for a Pacers team that could be overwhelmed in his best-of-seven series.
O'Neal got going right way. His line at the end of the first quarter read 15 points, on 7-for-8 shooting, five rebounds and one assist -- the latter stat coming when he passed out of a triple-team and found Harper alone in the corner for a 3-pointer that made it 33-16 late in the quarter.
Harper made all three of his shots in the first quarter while Bryant went 4-for-6, twice driving through traffic with ease to convert a dunk and layup. Los Angeles shot 15-for-22 in the quarter.
"It wasn't that easy, though it may have looked that way," Fox said. "We were just so prepared not to have a letdown. We wanted to set the tone for this series."
As well as things went for O'Neal, they were equally bad for Miller, as he missed all six of his shots in the first quarter.
Miller had his first shot of the second quarter emphatically rejected by Robert Horry and didn't score from the field until past the midpoint of the third quarter. He missed every shot he took the rest of the night.
"I've never really seen him off for two straight games," O'Neal said. "I know he'll come ready Friday."
Indiana pulled within six early in the third on a 3-pointer by Rose, but O'Neal scored on a putback, Horry dunked off a feed from Bryant and Fox scored on a give-and-go layup off an assist by Derek Fisher to quickly build the lead back to 12.
The Lakers were having their way with ease, no matter which end of the court they were on. Midway through the third quarter, Jackson drove to the basket and had his shot swatted away by Bryant. O'Neal then converted a short jumper, drew Smits' fifth foul and banked in a putback for a 69-57 lead.
That was about the point when the Pacers started executing their offense as well as they had all night. Three foul shots by Miller, a three-point play by Jackson, consecutive baskets by Dale Davis and a reverse layup by Jackson made it 71-69, giving the Lakers their first scare of the night.
But Los Angeles got its lead back to six by the end of the third quarter, and O'Neal had a dunk and two assists in the first two minutes of the fourth as the Lakers quickly got their lead back to double digits.
"That was the big fella," Fox said. "We've been riding his back all year. They decided to single-cover him before they sent help in the second half, but at that point he had 30 under his belt. That makes his energy go up a notch and makes him difficult to double-team."
It turned into a blowout from there as the Lakers closed the game with a 33-18 run.
Notes: Among the courtside regulars, actress Salma Hayek made the
boldest fashion statement by wearing a purple wig. ... Pacers
third-string center Zan Tabak, who won a championship in 1995 with
Houston, played the final 32 seconds of the first half. Tabak
hadn't seen any action since the second round against Philadelphia.
... Pacers forward Chris Mullin got into the game with 6:33 left in
the fourth. He did not score. ... Lakers rookie Devean George sat
out with a sprained left ankle. He is expected to be available for