Work in Sports
On the Court
Rain doesn't dampen Hoosier spirits
Posted: Wednesday June 14, 2000 08:55 PM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
INDIANAPOLIS -- Say this for Pacers fans. They are hearty souls.
On Wednesday afternoon, several hundred Pacers backers turned out for a pep rally in the city's Monument Circle downtown despite light rain and predictions of severe thunderstorms at any minute.
Although the crowd beat the heavy rain -- the downpour came about a half- hour after the rally ended -- it showed how much Hoosiers are enjoying the Pacers' first ever trip to the Finals.
Similar scenes have taken place all week during the Finals. Several hours before each game, the streets around Conseco Fieldhouse are filled with Pacers fans milling the streets, tailgating and generally soaking up the atmosphere.
Several fans at Wednesday's rally carried orange cardboard placards with the words "HACK SHAQ" printed on them. The placards, leftovers from the Lakers-Blazers series, were a gift from a Portland radio station.
"The Big Mumbler"Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal is famous for mumbling through interviews, speaking so softly that reporters just a few feet away can't hear. When seated at his locker after games, O'Neal often leaves media members straining their ears to pick up any of his pearls of wisdom.
During Tuesday's press conference, he had some fun with the reputation.
"I'm sorry, I don't talk like this," he said loudly and with mock clarity, breaking up the room. "I'll try to speak clearer from now on."
Avoiding a Travis-tyThe Lakers feel they have done an adequate job of containing Indiana's screen-and-roll, a prime concern entering the series. After Game 3, Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons admitted they had done a good job in the series pushing Pacers guard Travis Best away from the middle, where he does the most damage.
However, Cleamons noted that Best had hurt the Lakers in Game 3 with isolation and pull-up jumpers off the dribble. Indeed, Indiana rarely even ran the high screen-and-roll with Best in the second half. "You take away one thing, and he beats you with the other," Cleamons said.
Join the clubGlen Rice isn't the only Lakers player under the gun for his defensive shortcomings during these Finals. Forward Robert Horry found himself replaced by Travis Knight briefly in Game 3, mainly because L.A. coach Phil Jackson felt he wasn't doing an adequate job on Pacers forward Austin Croshere.
"Robert hadn't closed out on Croshere from the 3-point line. He hadn't done a good job closing out middle penetration. And Croshere's someone that we've identified as a player we really have to play defense on," Jackson said.
Croshere has averaged 17.3 points and 5.0 rebounds off the bench this series. He proved his opening night (16 points, six rebounds) was no fluke by pouring in a career-high 24 points and six boards in Game 2. He then had 12 points and three rebounds in Game 3.
Jackson said Horry is a good team defender but that he might not be a good matchup for Croshere.
"Robert's a help defender," Jackson says. "Sometimes he gets distracted with being a team defense player rather than individual. I want someone who will pay attention to this guy."