Lakers give Sixers a taste of their own medicine
Updated: Saturday June 09, 2001 3:17 AM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
LOS ANGELES -- It was a page right out of the Sixers' cookbook.
Start with a big-time performance by a star player, add some tenacious defense, and mix in some timely shooting by role players. The Lakers put the recipe together and came out with a much-needed victory over Philadelphia in Game 2 on Friday night at Staples Center.
It wasn't just Shaquille O'Neal's monster line (28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks). It was a combination of little things: Kobe Bryant's ball pressure, Rick Fox's hustle and Derek Fisher's shadowing of Sixers guard Allen Iverson.
Then, when it counted most, Fisher and guard Brian Shaw knocked down crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
"Their defense was great. Their energy was great," Philadelphia head coach Larry Brown said. "Shaq was phenomenal, as always. And Fisher hit a big, big shot."
After Philadelphia had rallied to cut a 13-point Lakers lead to 86-83 with just over two minutes left, Fisher took a kick-out pass from Shaq beyond the 3-point arc on top and buried it. The clutch dagger all but ended the Sixers' hopes, and prompted Brown to call timeout as the Staples Center crowd went wild. Fisher, embarrassed by a scoreless effort in Game 1, gave a few slight shakes of the head and one big-time sigh of relief.
"Fish came out and held his head up and went out and did his job," Lakers guard Ron Harper said. "He went out and played good basketball."
Just moments earlier, Shaw had provided a similar boost by nailing a 3-pointer from the corner, also off a Shaq feed, to put L.A. ahead 89-80. Like Fisher, it was redemption for Shaw. Until that point, he had missed all six of his field-goal attempts.
For much of Game 2, Shaq and Kobe were straining for help from their supporting cast. Though Fox did a good job defensively, especially on Aaron McKie in the third quarter, he failed to score a single point. Shaw was 1-of-7 for just four points, and Horace Grant had just six points and five rebounds.
Maybe that's why the Lakers seemed so relieved when Fisher and Shaw came up big in the furious final minutes of the fourth. After both shots, the L.A. bench players leaped with joy, waving towels. "Those shots were huge. Huge," Grant said. "It was really the back-breaker for them, in terms of us having some guys step up and contribute."
The Lakers also gave the Sixers a taste of their own medicine defensively. Fisher played sticky defense on Iverson, helping limit him to 23 points on 10-of-29 shooting. Bryant and Fox got up in Philly's shirts in the third quarter, helping fuel a 16-6 run to close out the quarter and put L.A. ahead 77-67. "We came out and did what we had to do," Bryant said.
Why not? The same formula worked for the Sixers in Game 1.