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Los Angeles 95, Portland 87
Posted: Sunday April 21, 2002 10:22 PM
Portland Trail Blazers
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Los Angeles Lakers
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LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers began pursuit of their third straight NBA title with a familiar formula -- plenty of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, solid defense and a win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bryant scored 34 points and O'Neal added 25 as the Lakers methodically turned back the Trail Blazers, 95-87, in Game One of their Western Conference first-round series.

In winning the title the last two seasons, the Lakers have eliminated the Blazers, gaining the upper hand in a heated rivalry. They won in seven games in the 2000 conference finals and swept last year's first-round series.

Bryant did not shoot particularly well, making just 10-of-28 from the field. But he dominated for extended stretches and added seven rebounds and three blocks.

"It took a while for us to get adjusted to what we had to do, to get in rhythm and know how to get them under control somewhat," Bryant said.

O'Neal was his usual unstoppable self. He made 10-of-17 shots and pulled down nine rebounds, fouling out overmatched Blazers center Dale Davis.

"They were doubling and tripling me," O'Neal said. "We just have to move the ball and other guys just have to step up and make shots, and just take the high-percentage shots."

Bryant and O'Neal helped the Lakers hold the Blazers to under 37 percent shooting (30-of-82). Los Angeles tightened up its defense in the third quarter, when it held Portland to 18 points and took the lead for good.

"In the second half, we started to gain an edge," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We'd had trouble defending them until the start of the second half."

"Our defense took over in the third quarter," Bryant said. "We found the keys to their rhythm."

The Lakers have won 17 of their last 18 playoff games. Four of those have come against Portland, which will try to get even in Game Two of the best-of-five series here on Thursday.

"We can match up with these guys," Portland's Ruben Patterson said. "They were just more aggressive on us in the second half."

"(I'm) a little dissatisfied in terms of the way we took some quick shots in the offense, particularly in the second half," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.

Rasheed Wallace had 25 points and 14 rebounds for Portland, which was within one point early in the fourth quarter but could not get over the hump.

A three-point play by Derek Anderson, who scored 22 points off the bench, made it 68-67. Derek Fisher answered with a three-point play to trigger a 14-3 run.

O'Neal had consecutive hoops and Rick Fox hit a 3-pointer before Bryant nearly faked Scottie Pippen off his feet and buried a 22-footer for an 82-70 lead with 8:05 left.

A 3-pointer by Pippen made it 82-75 and Bryant flipped in a driving finger roll. A 3-pointer by Wallace made 84-78 and Bryant threw in a reverse layup while drawing a foul. His free throw opened a nine-point lead with 5:07 to go and the Blazers got no closer than five points thereafter.

Bryant's driving layup early in the third period gave LA a 52-50 lead and began a 9-0 burst. He added four free throws around a three-point play by O'Neal.

"There's a reason they are the world champs," Cheeks said. "They stepped up in the second half. Offensive rebounds and every little thing about their game was stepped up in the second half."

Fisher scored 12 points for the Lakers, who shot 43 percent (32-of-75), including 8-of-20 from the arc. Ruben Patterson scored 13 points and Pippen added 11 for the Blazers.

The Lakers were sputtering late in the first quarter when Patterson, a former Laker and self-proclaimed "Kobe-stopper," entered the game. Bryant immediately scored Los Angeles' last eight points of the period, cutting the deficit to 23-19.

Bryant added 10 more in the second quarter, helping the Lakers grab a 46-44 halftime lead.

 


 
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