Lakers hold off Sixers 98-89 to even series
Updated: Saturday June 09, 2001 4:52 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Of all the gargantuan numbers Shaquille O'Neal produced, none was bigger than a pass to Derek Fisher that led to his ninth assist.
Fisher took the pass and converted a 3-pointer with 2:08 left, giving the Lakers the last little bit of breathing room they needed to hold off the no-quit Philadelphia 76ers 98-89 Friday night in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
O'Neal had 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and tied the Finals record with eight blocked shots as the Lakers evened the series at one game apiece.
"Biggest play of the game was when he kicked it out to Fisher," Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. "He's a tremendous passer. He made some unbelievable plays."
As well as O'Neal played, he wasn't the only member of the Lakers to excel.
Fisher scored 14 and played a big part in containing Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists -- as well as an earful of trash talk from Iverson in the final seconds as the series grew more confrontational.
"With Allen, he's doing whatever he can to inspire his team and fire them up," Bryant said. "But I really don't care. We're here, we're the world champions, and no matter how inspired your team may be, the championship has to come through the city of Los Angeles."
After O'Neal picked up his fifth foul with 6:38 left, Philadelphia used a 13-3 run to close within three points with 2:22 remaining. That's when O'Neal picked up his key assist to Fisher, whose 3-pointer was followed by a Robert Horry basket that gave the Lakers a 94-86 lead with 1:19 left.
O'Neal's jump hook with 28 seconds remaining gave Los Angeles an eight-point lead that all but sealed the victory.
"Yeah, I think it was a must-win," O'Neal said. "Now we just have to go into their place and get one or two wins. We play well on the road. We're real focused on the road."
The series resumes Sunday night in Philadelphia, where Iverson will try to make a bigger contribution. He was held to 23 points, primarily because of Fisher's defense, and missed all four of his free throw attempts.
"Did he play me well? You can't take anything away from Fish. He did a little of everything, but I can't remember the last time I went to the free-throw line just twice," Iverson said. "There's something fishy about that, but I'm not whining. Believe me."
O'Neal tied the Finals record for blocks held by Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing and seemed to be leading the Lakers to a romp before picking up his third, fourth and fifth fouls in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Lakers made only two baskets over the next five minutes, 3-pointers by Brian Shaw and Fisher that kept the 76ers from catching up.
Iverson left the game with 19 seconds left and spent the rest of the time yelling at the Lakers, who were again heavy favorites despite their loss in the opener.
"Tempers were on edge tonight, but that's the nature of the game," Sixers guard Raja Bell said.
Bryant bounced back from his 7-for-22 shooting performance in Game 1, going 11-for-23 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line. Fisher came back strong after going scoreless in the opener.
The primary reason for it was their inability to get the ball to Iverson as much as they wanted because of Fisher's tight defense.
"I would hope he'll get a little more respect" from the officials, Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. "If we would have made some free throws, maybe there would have been a little more heat on them late in the game."
Iverson missed his first four shots before hitting a fast-break reverse layup and then tossing a behind-the-back pass to Jumaine Jones for a 3-pointer and a 13-10 lead.
Mutombo and Tyrone Hill picked up their second fouls in the ninth minute of the first quarter and sat out until midway through the second. But the Sixers didn't let the Lakers take advantage and actually outscored them by seven points before the two starters returned with 6 1/2 minutes left before halftime.
O'Neal had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Bryant had 16, giving Los Angeles a 49-47 halftime lead.
The Lakers played from ahead for most of the third quarter when O'Neal had five of his blocks, the last of which led to a fast-break layup by Bryant for a 72-65 lead. Fisher made consecutive steals, turning one of them into an impressive dunk over Iverson for a nine-point lead.
Fisher made a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to give the Lakers a 10-point lead, 77-67.
Iverson finally attempted his first free throws with 10:31 left in the fourth quarter but missed both, and Bryant made a wide-open 3-pointer for an 82-70 lead with about nine minutes left.
The Lakers answered a 3-pointer by Iverson with an alley-oop dunk by O'Neal off a pass from Bryant, and their lead grew to 13 by the time O'Neal picked up his fifth foul with 6:38 left.
The 76ers went to the foul line seven times before O'Neal returned with 5:22 left, but Bell missed three of those attempts. McKie scored off a steal by Snow to make it 86-80 before Shaw gave the Lakers some breathing room by sinking a 3-pointer from the left corner with the Staples Center crowd falling almost completely silent as the ball was in the air.
The 76ers scored the next four points but Iverson missed two more foul shots with 3:04 left and a chance to cut the deficit to three. O'Neal missed at the other end and Mutombo put in a short bank shot with 2:22 left to make it 89-86, but Fisher's 3-pointer gave Los Angeles a six-point lead with 2:07 left.
"We really played a much better game tonight, offensively and defensively," Jackson said. "They presented us with a tough challenge [in Game 1], and I think it sapped something out of their energy tonight."
Notes: Lakers forward Rick Fox, who refused to cut his hair during
this team's 19-game winning streak, trimmed about an inch. ...
Brown used 11 of his available players by the fourth minute of the
second quarter. ... O'Neal also drew a technical foul from referee
Steve Javie between the third and fourth quarters.