Work in Sports
Without Kobe, Lakers take 2-0 series lead over Pacers
Posted: Sunday June 18, 2000 11:03 PM
LOS ANGELES -- So much for Hack-a-Shaq.
Shaquille OΉNeal attempted 39 fouls shots, more than anyone has ever taken in an NBA game -- regular season or postseason -- and even though he only hit 18 of them, it was enough for the Lakers to hold on for a 111-104 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.
O'Neal scored 40 points and pulled down 24 rebounds, but his residency at the foul line was the big story, even drawing attention away from a superb team effort by the Lakers, following an injury to Kobe Bryant, who left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter.
Bryant sprained his right ankle when he landed on Indiana guard Jalen Rose's foot after a jumper. He was listed as day-to-day and is questionable for Game 3.
Despite Bryant's injury and O'Neal's 5-for-17 shooting from the foul line, the Lakers remained firmly in control of the game, holding a 52-49 halftime lead and a 73-69 edge heading into the fourth.
Glen Rice scored 21 points, including five three-pointers, and Ron Harper also scored 21 to lead a balanced Laker attack in support of Shaq.
Rose led the Pacers with 30, while Austin Croshere added 24 and Reggie Miller had 21, but was limited to two in the fourth quarter.
Sam Perkins and Dale Davis fouled out from hacking Shaq, while Rik Smits committed five fouls and Miller, Mark Jackson and Croshere had four each. Of the 10 Pacers who played, each fouled O'Neal at least once.
In the entire history of the league, no player had ever taken so many free throws in a single game. Chamberlain set the overall record of 34 in 1962; Cousy set the postseason record of 32 in 1953; Pettit set the finals record of 24 in 1958.
Game 3 is Sunday, and the Pacers will try to become just the third team in league history to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the finals.
Indiana coach Larry Bird is concerned about the deficit, but not about his strategy.
"Whatever it takes to win a ballgame, that's what we're going to do," said Bird. "If it takes a four-hour game, that's what we're going to do. We're down 2-0, and we have to find a way to win one."
Although the Pacers drew within three points several times, they never caught up.
The Hack-a-Shaq strategy heated up in the final three minutes. Every time the Lakers inbounded, the Pacers fouled him. He took 12 free throws in a span of 1:46, making half of them.
"I was trying to get myself to calm down. I was looking over at my father. He told me to take my time, follow through and shoot," O'Neal said.
His success rate was good enough to help the Lakers overcome what could have been a devastating loss. Bryant went down in obvious pain just 7 1/2 minutes into the game when his foot landed on Rose's foot after Bryant shot a jumper.
He tried to get up, stumbled down and then repeated the process again, hopping around on his uninjured foot and not knowing in which direction to turn.
The Staples Center crowd went silent as Bryant limped off the court and to the locker room, where he underwent X-rays that came up negative. He was later seen walking down a hallway near the locker room, unable to put any weight on the injured foot. The Lakers listed him as day-to-day.
"It's a good thing we have a cushion, having gone up 2-0, so it's not a do-or-die thing if the doctors don't think I should play Sunday," Bryant said.
The Lakers started pulling away early in the fourth after Indiana got within two with 8:25 left. Harper drove for a bank shot, Derek Fisher hit a wide-open 3-pointer as the Lakers swung the ball out of a double-team and O'Neal went 1-for-2 from the line.
That made it 86-78, but Indiana came back as O'Neal was whistled for his fifth foul -- a highly questionable call that appeared to be a clean block of Travis Best's shot. Best made both shots to start a 6-0 run that made it 86-84.
Rice answered with a 3-pointer, O'Neal scored the Lakers' next two baskets and the stage was set for Indiana to start fouling.
That they did, but to no avail -- just as the Portland Trail Blazers found out in the Western Conference finals when they sent O'Neal to the line 25 times in the fourth quarter of Game 1.
"When the game is two to six points, I can understand it," Miller said of the strategy. "Down 15 like the Portland series, I don't understand it. But if he's shooting free throws like he was tonight, then I could see it."
Despite Bryant's injury and O'Neal's 5-for-17 shooting from the foul line, the Lakers still held a 52-49 halftime lead as O'Neal scored 15, Rice 13 and Harper 11.
Miller served notice early that he was eager to shoot himself out of his slump, making his first attempt -- an 18-footer -- on the Pacers' first possession. Breaking from their usual habit of trying to get Smits involved early on offense, the Pacers looked to go to Miller or Rose nearly every time downcourt.
Rose finished the first quarter with 10 points, Miller had eight and O'Neal had just six. Los Angeles stayed ahead early in the second quarter, but the Pacers stayed within striking distance and finally regained the lead when Rose followed an airball by O'Neal by pushing the ball into the lane for a short turnaround that made it 38-37 with 6:32 left.
The Lakers held a 52-49 halftime lead, and the score was tied 60-60 with 7:09 left in the third quarter when Smits picked up his fifth foul. Undaunted, the Pacers pulled ahead, Miller gaining confidence as he hit a wide-open 3-pointer and a two-handed jam -- both on fast breaks.
Indiana's lead didn't last long, though, and the Lakers took a 73-69 lead into the fourth.
Notes: Cousy of the Boston Celtics shot 32 free throws against
Syracuse in a quadruple-overtime playoff game March 21, 1953. There
were 128 total free-throw attempts in that game -- 32 more than
Indiana and LA combined for. ... Pettit, who played for the St.
Louis Hawks, shot 24 free throws against Boston in the finals on
April 9, 1958. ... Actress Pamela Anderson was among the courtside
celebrities, sporting a temporary "Man of Steel" tattoo just like
O'Neal's on her right arm. Tracy McGrady of the Toronto Raptors sat
directly behind her wearing a black doo-rag and a red NBA