Work in Sports
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Forget "Hack-a-Shaq." Rasheed Wallace and the Portland Trail Blazers had a lot more success with "Attack-a-Shaq."
Wallace and the Trail Blazers got even in the Western Conference finals by going directly at and through Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers, handing them their worst loss of the season, 106-77.
Wallace was ejected in the first half of Saturday's 109-94 loss in Game One for his volatile behavior and staredown of referee Ron Garretson.
Portland resorted to hacking O'Neal for most of the latter half of the fourth quarter in that contest, hoping to use the Most Valuable Player's poor free-throw shooting to get back into the contest. But O'Neal finished with 41 points and the Blazers clearly missed Wallace after pulling within nine points in the final period.
"Maintain your calm," was the message Wallace's mother delivered to him after Game One and tonight, the All-Star forward was the consummate professional. He scored 11 of his playoff career-high 29 points in the decisive third quarter, when the Blazers put a stranglehold on the game and showed the Lakers they were serious about taking this series.
"Everyone went out there enthusiastic and in attack mode," said Wallace, who actually played the role of peacemaker when teammate Bonzi Wells began arguing with officals. "Coach just wanted us to try our inside shots and rebound well."
"(Wallace) played well the minutes he had last game, but having him around for the full ride was nice," added Portland coach Mike Dunleavy, who used Wallace for 46 minutes. "I figured he didn't play very much last game so I'd play him a little more."
After O'Neal dunked to pull the Lakers within 50-47 with 9:13 remaining in the third quarter, Wallace hit an 11-footer and three 3-pointers during a 26-6 run to close the period.
Wallace and Scottie Pippen took it to O'Neal early and often in the first half, combining for 29 points, 13 of which came from the free-throw line, where the Blazers outscored Los Angeles, 18-7, over the first 24 minutes.
"We just kind of took it to them tonight," Pippen said. "We weren't going to be a jump shooting team tonight. I think we really did a good job of shooting the ball. Rasheed and Steve (Smith) did a good job of facing the basket and we came here to try and get one game."
O'Neal managed only six points, seven rebounds and picked up three fouls in the first half, but was even less of a factor in the third quarter, when the Lakers produced a franchise playoff-low eight points to Portland's 28.
"We got a little desperate there in the middle of that quarter," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I take credit for this. I left them to hang out to dry a little bit too long and try and find their own way back out of that morass, and they just couldn't find their way out.
"That was quite a game plan by Portland. I don't think they shot the ball that well, but they had a game plan that worked against us very well. They pounded the ball in, drove it to the hoop, created foul situations and put us on our heels defensively."
Smith scored 24 points and Pippen finished with 21 for Portland, which handed Los Angeles its first home loss in eight playoff games. The Blazers are 5-0 at home in the postseason and will have a chance to improve on that mark and jump ahead in the series when they host Game Three on Wednesday.
"I think we were aggressive going to the basket," Smith said of the difference between the first two games. "We were trying to draw fouls rather than settling for jump shots. We settled for jump shots too much in the first game."
O'Neal finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds and Kobe Bryant managed only 12 on 2-of-9 shooting for Los Angeles, which went 2-of-15 from the floor during its third-quarter collapse.
"This is going to be a true test for us," O'Neal said. "They hit all of our shots and we didn't hit any of our shots. They were more aggressive to the ball, they got all the loose balls.
They just outplayed us."
"This is good for us," added Bryant. "It just builds character and makes us stronger down the road. We are going to go up there and do the same thing (to them). It's just a bigger challenge, which is cool."
Robert Horry, who had 12 points and three big 3-pointers in the second quarter of Game One, managed just two points on 1-of-5 shooting tonight as he and the rest of the Lakers looked nothing like the team that tamed the Blazers on Saturday.
"Shots weren't dropping tonight like they were before," Horry said. "We didn't take advantage of going to the hole. We didn't go to the rack."
Starting forward Glen Rice and A.C. Green managed only six points apiece for Los Angeles, which shot 39 percent (27-of-69) and lost the battle on the boards by a whopping 49-34 margin.
Even more staggering is the fact that the Lakers did not score a single point off Portland's seven turnovers, while the Blazers racked up 17 points on Los Angeles miscues.
The Lakers entered with a league playoff-high 102.1 scoring average but were held below 80 points for the first time this season. The game was reminiscent of the 97-82 loss the Lakers suffered at Portland on November 6.
Wallace was 10-of-11 at the line and grabbed a career playoff-high 12 boards for the Blazers, who shot 45 percent (33-of-74) en route to their largest victory margin in the posteason since a record 130-98 rout of Philadelphia in Game Four of the 1977 NBA Finals.
"Wallace was great," Smith said. "I think everybody realized how much of a key he is to us. We've got to have him on the floor and I think if you look at the way he played, we're really going to struggle without him out there."
Portland blew out Los Angeles at the Great Western Forum, 102-76, on May 2, 1992 in the Western Conference finals.
The Blazers shot out of the gate as Arvydas Sabonis hit a seven-foot hook, Wallace a seven-footer and Pippen a layup and a slam to build an early 8-0 lead. Pippen's driving dunk with 6:25 remaining in the opening period made it 12-5, but Los Angeles shot back with an 18-10 run to take a 23-22 lead into the second quarter.
After exchanging the lead seven times in the second period, Portland went ahead to stay when Wallace buried a nine-footer and Pippen converted a steal by Wallace into a layup, making it 43-39 with 3:08 remaining in the first half.
Protecting a 48-45 halftime lead, the Blazers opened the second-half scoring when Pippen drove through a slew of defenders and lofted a shot over O'Neal for a five-point cushion.
But the 7-1 pivotman answered with a thunderous dunk before Portland left him and his talented teammates in the dust.
Greg Anthony made a layup and Smith added a short hook shot in the lane before Brian Shaw's 3-pointer go the Lakers back within five. But Smith and Anthony followed with back-to-back layups and Wallace hit a short jumper to make it 62-51 with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
Smith made a pair from the line before Wallace, who was 8-of-50 from 3-point range in the playoffs, turned into Chuck Person.
The 6-11, 225-pounder drained shots from 24, 26 and 25 feet around a 25-footer by Smith as the Blazers opened a commanding 76-51 lead and did not look back.
Wells scored 12 points off the bench as the Blazers' reserves outscored the Lakers' backups, 27-23.