The most memorable image from this game may have been O'Neal
standing at the foul line, his right arm extended in a
follow-through as he watched free throw after free throw go in. The
Nets sent the notoriously poor foul shooter to the line 14 times,
and O'Neal knocked down a dozen of them while showing a
surprisingly soft touch.
"He's showing he can do it all now," said New Jersey's Jason
The Nets stuck with single-coverage against O'Neal in the first
half, then finally went to double- and triple-teams in the second
half. But no matter what wrinkles they threw at O'Neal, there was
no stopping the NBA's most unstoppable force.
The 350-pound center had six dunks to go along with an array of
short jumpers and bank shots as he finished just six points shy of
his career playoff high.
"As you know, this is not a fluke. This is what he does at this
time of year," teammate Rick Fox said. "It's a big stage; the
world is watching. He's been MVP of the last two, and he's going for
Kobe Bryant added a quiet 24 points and Derek Fisher had 12 for
the Lakers, who can win their third consecutive championship and
give coach Phil Jackson his ninth title in 12 years by winning just
two more games.
Game 3 is Sunday night at New Jersey, just a few miles from
O'Neal's hometown of Newark. And unless the Nets find a way to
contain him, their prospects of bringing the series back to Los
Angeles are slim.
"He's just such a dominant player; I don't know what to do
against Shaq," Nets coach Byron Scott said.
O'Neal was 14-for-23 from the field with team-high totals of 12
rebounds and eight assists. He left to a thunderous standing
ovation with just over a minute remaining.
"He's playing at a level now where he's in his prime, and
there's nothing that anybody can do about that," Bryant said.
Kerry Kittles scored 23 points and Kidd added 17 points, nine
rebounds and seven assists for the Nets.
The game got away from New Jersey late in the third quarter
after Kidd made two free throws to cut the deficit to 65-57.
O'Neal passed out of double coverage and found Bryant for a
3-pointer, then hit four consecutive free throws and a 9-foot
fadeaway. A 3-pointer by Brian Shaw off an assist from O'Neal
completed a 12-0 run and gave the Lakers a 77-57 lead.
New Jersey scored the final four points of the third quarter and
made three quick 3-pointers early in the fourth to pull within
83-77, but O'Neal went to the line and scored points 39 and 40 with
Fisher hit a 3-pointer off an assist from O'Neal with 5:53 left
for a 90-79 lead, and the Lakers turned it into a blowout by
closing the game with a 12-0 run.
With Kidd scoreless and O'Neal all but unstoppable, the Nets
still found themselves trailing only 49-43 at halftime.
New Jersey shot just 15-for-49 in the half, including 0-for-6 on
3-pointers, and missed four of eight free throws in the second
quarter. But the Nets were able to hang in by controlling the
offensive glass, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to the Lakers'
O'Neal reached 30 points by dunking and making a free throw off
a perfect pick-and-roll pass from Bryant with 6 1/2 minutes left in
the third -- just before the Lakers' 12-0 run gave them a lead that
was too big for the Nets to overcome.
"I'm not trying to intimidate anyone. I'm just trying to win,"
O'Neal said. "I'm just focusing on number three. I don't get into
A steal and dunk by Bryant gave Los Angeles its first
double-digit lead, 23-13, and Robert Horry delivered a beautiful
touch pass on the break leading to a dunk by O'Neal that made it
O'Neal dunked off an inbounds pass and converted a three-point
play early in the second quarter, giving him 21 points and the
Lakers a 40-31 lead. O'Neal also mixed in a little Showtime of his
own, hitting Shaw with a no-look pass for a layup.
By the time he went to the bench with 56 seconds left in the
half, O'Neal had 23 points in 22 minutes.
Notes: Bryant was visibly upset with the officiating at several
times, including one instance late in the second quarter when his
face slammed into Jason Collins' elbow. ... O'Neal caused a blonde
starlet in the front row to blush when he smiled at her and said
hello during a brief stoppage in play in the third quarter. ...
Nets guard Lucious Harris struggled again on offense, shooting
0-for-9 after going only 1-for-5 in Game 1.
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