Work in Sports
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Trying to close out the Indiana Pacers, the Los Angeles Lakers did not come close.
With the title in their sights, the Lakers came out flat and the Pacers came out hot, racing to a big early lead and storming to a 120-87 victory as they staved off elimination in Game Five of the NBA Finals.
Jalen Rose scored 22 of his 32 points in the first half, when Indiana shot down Shaquille O'Neal and his half-hearted teammates and sent the series back to the West Coast for Game Six on Monday.
"I understand we have what it takes to beat LA but it means nothing talking about it," Rose said. "Since I felt like I was doing nothing but talking about it, especially when they got up 3-1, I figured I was going to shut up and go out and play."
"We're upset with ourselves," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who remains in search of his seventh championship ring. "There's no one to blame but us in this situation. We're not going to be angry about it one way or the other."
The Pacers still have an enormous task in front of them, needing to win two games at the Staples Center, where they are 0-4 this season. But they showed some Hoosier pride and continued a disturbing trend for the Lakers, who showed none of the tenacity they displayed in Game Four.
"They're still the team with three, but we're still the team that has fight," Rose said.
"We absolutely, positively have nothing to lose," said Pacers guard Reggie Miller, who scored 25 points.
As has been its habit in the postseason, Los Angeles wasted its first chance to end a series. The Lakers dropped to 3-6 in close-out games, showing none of the killer instinct normally associated with champions.
"Every time we (try to) close it out, it seems like the whole (other) team is in the zone," said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who scored only eight points. "They were just on fire."
In each of the first three rounds, Los Angeles was unable to seal the deal until it returned to sunny Southern California. That will have to be the case in this one as well as the quest for its first NBA crown since 1988 continues.
"They're just waiting to get home now," said Indiana's Larry Bird, whose coaching career was extended another game.
The Lakers absorbed the fourth-worst beating in NBA Finals history and surrendered the most points in a regulation Finals game since Portland was scorched for 122 by Chicago in the 1992 opener.
It is not as bad as it sounds for the Lakers. They may have taken comfort in the fact that they have not lost three straight games all season and no team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in NBA Finals history.
"We're sitting in the driver's seat in this situation," Jackson said. "We're not in a situation where we have to get in a panic mode."
"I still think they feel very good about themselves," Bird said. "They're up 3-2, got two games at home and they still got Shaq playing pretty well."
An emotional Miller also started quickly for the Pacers, scoring 18 points before intermission. In the opening half, Indiana made its first six 3-pointers, shot a blistering 61 percent (25-of-41) from the field and led by 20 points.
O'Neal was his usual imposing self with 35 points and 11 rebounds. But for the first time in the series, the NBA Most Valuable Player did not have an impact on the outcome as all he did was temporarily prevent a blowout.
The big guy did not get much help, either. Game Four hero Bryant was awful, scoring eight points on 4-of-20 shooting while battling foul trouble and unsuccessfully chasing Miller. Slumping Glen Rice added only 11 and again was torched by Rose.
"It looked like they were concentrating a little too much on Shaq and they couldn't really find their own rhythm," Miller said. "I know Kobe still took his shots, but everyone else seemed to be looking for those two."
Trailing 64-45 at halftime, Los Angeles made an early third-quarter push and pulled within 13 points. But that was all the Lakers had as the Pacers regrouped and rebuilt the lead to 86-67 entering the final period.
Early in the fourth quarter, Miller settled things for good with four free throws and a 3-pointer around a flurry of technical fouls, building the lead to 25 points before the 18,345 at Conseco Fieldhouse went home happy.
Overall, Indiana shot 57 percent (39-of-68) and held Los Angeles to 40 percent (36-of-90). Rose was 12-of-18 with four 3-pointers and helped shut down Bryant as he bounced back from a disappointing Game Four, when he was held scoreless over the last 14 minutes.
"I was very determined to come out and play my game," Rose said. "Anytime we're put in the hole where we're down 1-3, you have to come out and let your game be shown. You can't leave anything in the tank because if you do, the season is over."
"We anticipated that Jalen was going to respond," Jackson said. "Not quite like this, but going to respond. He had some first half against us."
Miller was 7-of-12 and also made four 3-pointers. He provided an emotional spark with four-point plays in the first and fourth quarters.
"I really didn't have to establish a good rhythm because (Jalen), he was flowing pretty good," Miller said. "And when he was tired or out of the ballgame, it was time for me to step up. That's good when you have that type of balance."
The Pacers unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers in the first quarter. The first was by Miller and made it 7-1 before the Lakers climbed back to a 9-9 tie -- and apparently ran out of motivation.
Rose hit one to push it to 14-9 and he fed Miller for another with a foul that made it 22-13 with 4:56 remaining. Rik Smits again sat down with two early fouls but Sam Perkins entered the Long-Distance Shootout to make it 27-17 with 3:42 left.
"Shaq throws the ball away, the ball comes to Rose and he hits Miller for a four-point play," Jackson said. "That was a big play for them and I thought really said something about us in the way we were playing, a little bit too loose, a little bit too sloppy."
The Lakers looked confused as the red-hot Rose made two more 3-pointers around a layup by Miller. Another layup by Mark Jackson closed the quarter and gave Indiana a 39-28 lead. The Pacers shot 75 percent (15-of-20) in the biggest quarter of the series.
"When a team is shooting like that, there's not much you can do," O'Neal said. "They shot the ball well from outside, they beat us on penetration a couple of times and they shot well from the free-throw line."
With Miller on the bench at the outset of the second quarter, Rose took complete control with two inside hoops and another 3-pointer as he continued to work over Rice and keep the lead at double figures.
Reserve guard Travis Best, who has a slightly separated left shoulder, came on with 9:54 left in the second quarter and provided a spark. He felt his way a bit before sinking jumpers on consecutive trips.
Rose followed with a transition dunk and a drive, completing an 8-0 burst that had the downtown barn rocking and the Lakers reeling at 54-35 with just under five minutes to go in the first half.
"He's very good with the ball, can take quick dribbles and pull up," Bird said. "He keeps the defense off balance. When he's hitting his shots, it's almost impossible to stop him."
That seemed like an eternity for the Lakers, whose offense was solely the power game of O'Neal. He scored nine of their final 10 points of the half, but Miller countered with a driving layup, two free throws and another 3-pointer. A free throw by Best made it 64-44 before one by O'Neal closed the half.
The extended halftime cooled off Indiana as Los Angeles opened with a 12-6 surge that featured a thunderous slam by Bryant.
That was about his range, however, and the Pacers rediscovered theirs.
Jackson had eight of his 10 points in the period, including a hook that stopped the run and a jumper rebuilt the lead to 19 points in the final minute. The fourth quarter featured four technical fouls in the first minute and garbage time thereafter.
"Everyone thinks they're so nice and pretty and they're the glamour boys," Miller said. "It's Los Angeles -- Evian, cafe latte, all that crap. They're doing all the pushing, the holding."
"I couldn't put it any better than LL Cool J, who said, 'We're going back to Cali,'" added Mark Jackson, who had seven assists.
"That was our theme song before tonight's game."
Austin Croshere scored 13 points and Smits added 12 for the Pacers, who made 32-of-36 from the line and 10-of-20 from behind the arc.
O'Neal made 17-of-27 shots but just 1-of-6 free throws. He is 33-of-81 from the line in the series. Los Angeles made only 11-of-21 free throws and was outrebounded, 46-34.