1: Los Angeles Lakers 99 - New Jersey Nets 94
Nets to the NBA finals.
LOS ANGELES. The Nets arrived to their first NBA Finals game in
franchise history. And Shaquille O'Neal gave them a very rude
welcome, as he did with Indiana two years ago, and with Philadelphia
O'Neal powered his
way to 36 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks as he lifted the
Lakers to a 99-94 victory.
June has indisputably
become O'Neal's time of year. He has won the NBA Finals Most Valuable
Player each of the last two seasons and wasted no time getting
started on a third award.
In the opener two
years ago against Indiana, the 7-1, 350-pound O'Neal muscled his
way to 43 points. Last year, he went for 44 and 20 rebounds in
an overtime loss to Philadelphia.
For 1 1/2 quarters,
this game looked like a regular-season Nets-Lakers game -- from
The Lakers' opening
duel in the NBA Finals was supposed to be against the New Jersey
Nets. It was, instead, against their infernal yawns. They won
by five points but could have won by 30. O'Neal scored 36 points
but could have scored 60. The Lakers could have soared but, instead,
The Lakers dashed
to a 23-point lead midway through the second quarter with everything
these startled New Jersey visitors had feared.
O'Neal hit a reverse
layup on a no-look pass from Kobe Bryant.
Rick Fox hit a layup
on a floor-length pass from Robert Horry.
Bryant sank a left-handed
runner in the dazed face of Kerry Kittles.
Derek Fisher hit
a three-pointer after grabbing a pass by a falling-out-of-bounds
In four consecutive
It was wild. It was
loud. It all figured.
And then, it didn't.
They spent the remainder
of the evening being outscored by 18 points, although the Nets
never had the ball with a chance to tie the game, never looked
like serious contenders, and didn't sound like it afterward.
Against a lost Nets
squad, O'Neal made five of seven shots and scored 10 points in
only nine minutes of work. With the Lakers comfortably ahead,
Jackson rested O'Neal for the final three minutes of the first
quarter and the first three minutes of the second while LA widened
the lead without him, taking it from 25-10 to 36-15 with 8:52
remaining in the second quarter. O'Neal returned and abused the
smaller Aaron Williams for three straight hoops and a 42-19 bulge.
New Jersey scored
17 of the next 23 points to climb within 48-36 at halftime. They
showed even more life in the third quarter, this time on the offensive
end. Consecutive 3-pointers by Van Horn made it a 10-point game
before Bryant answered with a flying dunk. A three-point play
by Martin and a 3-pointer by Kittles had the Nets within 60-56
with 5:23 left. O'Neal put in a layup and Bryant made two free
throws to restore some order.
Bryant scored 11
points in the period as the Lakers rebuilt their lead to 72-63
entering the final quarter.
The Nets got as close
as three points twice in the fourth quarter.
Kenyon Martin sank two free throws to pull New Jersey within 84-81
with 4:47 to play. But O'Neal made the Nets pay for their Hack-a-Shaq
strategy, sinking four of six free throws in the final 3:25 to
help put the game away.
Kobe scored a quiet
22 points on just 6-of-16 shooting, Fox added 14 and Derek Fisher
13 for the Lakers, who attempted just 25 shots with 39 free throws
in the second half. Los Angeles was 32-of-45 from the line and
enjoyed a 50-45 advantage on the boards to stall New Jersey's
Jason Kidd posted
another triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Martin scored 21
points and Van Horn added 12 for the Nets, who shot under 40 percent
best way to defeat him is to figure out what car he's going to
drive and put sand in the gas tank. If he makes it to the arena,
we're going to be in trouble."
Bryant: "We felt we had to get back to basics, get back
to executing. Pound the ball inside and let Shaq take us home."
Jefferson (NJN): "It's a long, loooong series. We've
just got to get one."
36 pts 16 reb 4 block
Kobe 22 pts 6 assist
Fox 14 pts 8 reb
Fisher 13 pts
Jason Kidd (NJN) 23 pts 10 reb 10 assist
Kenyon Martin (NJN) 21 pts 6 reb
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2: Los Angeles Lakers 106 - New Jersey Nets 83
have no answer for Shaq
LOS ANGELES. O'Neal again overwhelmed the Nets with 40 points,
12 rebounds and eight assists as the Los Angeles Lakers took command
of the NBA Finals with a 106-83 victory.
Nets coach Byron Scott made over the last two days, they had absolutely
no effect. O'Neal was even better than he was in Game One.
This time, the 7-1,
350-pound O'Neal flashed some finesse with his usual force. In
addition to his nine dunks, he was 12-of-14 from the line and
looked almost nimble on his arthritic big toe.
O'Neal made 14-of-23
shots and flashed more of his underrated all-around skills. He
finished off a couple of fast breaks, dropped a beautiful no-look,
back-door pass to Brian Shaw in the second quarter and protected
the paint well.
Through the first
three quarters, O'Neal annihilated Nets centers Todd MacCulloch,
Aaron Williams and Jason Collins for 36 points, going through
them more than around them.
And when the cold-shooting
Nets finally put together a flurry of 3-pointers early in the
fourth quarter, O'Neal returned and quickly restored order. He
dunked and sank two free throws, starting a 23-6 run that buried
It was the fifth
career 40-point Finals game for O'Neal. He had three against Indiana
two years ago and another in the opener last year vs. Philadelphia.
Bryant scored 24
points and Derek Fisher had 10 of his 12 in the final seven minutes
for the Lakers, who never trailed and found the killer instinct
that had been missing in Game One. They made four straight 3-pointers
to end the game.
Kerry Kittles scored
23 points and Kidd added 17 -- all in the second half -- for the
Nets, who shot under 35 percent (30-of-86). New Jersey has held
the lead for less than a minute in the series.
The prime culprit
was reserve guard Lucious Harris, who missed all nine of his shots.
Starting forwards Kenyon Martin and Keith Van Horn combined for
15 points on just 5-of-17 shooting.
Only two teams have
erased a 2-0 deficit to win the Finals. Since the 2-3-2 format
was instituted in 1985, the home team never has won the middle
At least New Jersey
didn't suffer the same first-period fate in Game 1, when the Nets
fell behind 29-14. Remarkably, the Nets trailed just 27-21 after
one quarter and 49-43 at halftime despite shooting 30.6 percent
(15 for 49) and having Jason Kidd go scoreless. Kidd missed all
five of his shots, but Kerry Kittles and Richard Jefferson kept
New Jersey close with 12 and eight points, respectively, in the
Kidd found his offense
in the third quarter, scoring 11 points. But that did nothing
to solve the problem of O'Neal. He quickly put MacCulloch on the
bench with his fourth foul and added two more dunks, including
one on a pretty pick-and-roll with Bryant that -- with a foul
shot -- made it 61-52 with 6 1/2 minutes to go.
Three minutes later,
O'Neal headfaked Williams, who landed on his back for a foul.
O'Neal easily supported the 225-pound forward, then sank both
free throws for a 70-57 advantage. While New Jersey was missing
nine straight shots, a lane turnaround by O'Neal and a 3-pointer
by Shaw built the bulge to 77-57 with 1:53 left.
A 3-pointer by Kittles
and two by Kidd highlighted an 11-0 burst that got the Nets back
in it for the last time at 79-72 early in the final period before
O'Neal returned. He followed another 3-pointer by Kittles with
his final dunk, then added two free throws less than 40 seconds
later for an 85-77 lead before turning it over to his teammates
with sharp passes out of double-teams. The biggest beneficiary
was Fisher, who fueled the final run.
Fox had 10 points
and eight rebounds and Robert Horry added nine and 10 for the
Lakers, who shot 50 percent (39-of-78), including 9-of-16 from
(NJ coach): "Shaq's
a monster, I don't know what to really do against him right now."
Bryant: "Shaq is so dominant, he'll shoot 55 percent
on an off night, there's nothing you can do about that."
40 pts 12 reb 8 assist
Kobe 24 pts 8 reb
Fox 10 pts 8 reb 6 assist
Fisher 12 pts 5 reb
Horry 9 pts 10 reb 3 block
Jason Kidd (NJ) 17 pts 9 reb 7 assist
Kerry Kittles (NJ) 23 pts
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3: Los Angeles Lakers 106 - New Jersey Nets 103
finally emerged at the NBA Finals
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- Kobe Bryant broke out with 36 points
and led a late rally as the Lakers edged the neophyte Nets, 106-103,
and moved within one win of their third straight championship.
Obscured by the imposing
shadow of Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant had quietly averaged 23 points
as the Lakers won the first two games. He had been reduced to
a complementary player as O'Neal destroyed the Nets in Los Angeles.
Hosting the first
Finals game in franchise history, the Nets went to double-teams
and zones that somewhat slowed O'Neal but opened up the floor
for the other Lakers -- specifically Bryant, who reminded everyone
that he also is one of the top players in the game.
he had not displayed in the first two games, Bryant made 14-of-23
shots. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including two
tough baskets over defensive demon Jason Kidd that kept the lead
at four points.
Nobody was confident
the Nets could dig their way out of their 2-0 hole. But one thing
you have to give them,they're a brave little crew. Too little
to deal with Shaq but brave enough to keep trying.
After two games of
trying to single cover O'Neal, a mistake no West team would make,
Scott finally tried double-teaming Sunday.
the Nets hadn't double-teamed all season, they didn't do it well.
They came softly and late, and Shaq had his usual 21 points by
halftime, by which time the Lakers had taken their usual double-figure
This time, however,
the Nets, who'd trailed by 23 points in each of the first two
games, were never down by more than 14.
Then, trailing, 78-70,
late in the third quarter, the Nets went on a blistering 14-0
run, with Kidd scoring six of the points and assisting on two
So the Lakers just
came from seven points behind in the last 6 minutes 44 seconds
with a notable contribution from Devean George, who'd been struggling
George made two
free throws and a follow dunk around a drive by Bryant to cut
the deficit to 94-93 with 4:39 left.
Kidd hit a jumper,
but O'Neal -- who was 11-of-17 from the line -- made two free
throws before finding Horry for a 3-pointer that gave LA the lead
for good with 3:04 to go.
On the next possession,
Bryant drilled a 22-footer from the left wing over Kidd, who made
a jumper off a scramble at the other end.
Then it was O'Neal's
turn. He spun left for a banker that beat the shot clock and made
it 102-98 with 58 seconds to play, then soared
to block a drive by Kidd 10 seconds later. But Bryant kept things
tense by missing a pair of free throws with 42 seconds left.
After Keith Van Horn
halved the deficit with a long jumper, Bryant dribbled into the
lane and nearly lost the ball to Kerry Kittles. But he grabbed
it and spun for a 10-footer over Kidd with 19 seconds to go.
Kidd made a 3-pointer
with 5.2 seconds left, but Rick Fox sank two big free throws.
With the Nets out of timeouts, Kidd's desperation runner from
30 feet bounced off the backboard, draining the emotional sellout
through a difficult East finals against the Boston Celtics, the
Nets concluded they had become a team of destiny. However, as
they are now finding out, there are a lot of possible destinies
and theirs was to get run over by the bigger, better and more
Scott (NJ coach): "You
guys were treated to seeing three of the best players in the world
play tonight, unfortunately, they had two of them."
Scott: "Great players make great plays, and Kobe made
two big ones."
35 pts 11 reb 4 block
36 pts 6 reb 4 assist 2 block
Fisher 13 pts 6 assist
Jason Kidd (NJ) 30 pts 10 assist
Kenyon Martin (NJ) 26 pts
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4: Los Angeles Lakers 113 - New Jersey Nets 107
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- This year's offering from the Laker
dynasty completed what Magic, Kareem, and Worthy could not --
winning three straight titles for the first time since the franchise
was in Minneapolis.
It was the 14th championship
for the Lakers and their ninth since moving from Minneapolis in
1960. It also marked the first time they had swept the Finals.
It was the seventh sweep in Finals history and the first since
1995, when O'Neal was on the wrong end of Houston's demolition
of Orlando. He had been pained by that loss for a long time and
put the hurt on the Nets.
The 2001-02 Lakers
became the first Phil Jackson team to sweep the NBA Finals. In
the process, Phil Jackson has cemented his reputation for being
one of the greatest playoff coaches ever. He tied the legendary
Red Auerbach with his ninth title and overtook Pat Riley as the
all-time playoff wins leader with 156.
he was on a mission, O'Neal averaged 36.3 points and 12.3 rebounds
as he demoralized every defense thrown at him and was a unanimous
selection for his third straight NBA Finals Most Valuable Player
award. Shaq scored 145 points, setting a record for a four-game
Finals. He also established marks with 11 blocks, 68 free-throw
attempts and 45 made, putting "Hack-a-Shaq" to rest,
once and for all.
To finish off the
Nets, the Lakers had to erase a 34-27 deficit after one quarter
and withstand another late New Jersey comeback. Down 84-80 after
three, the Nets charged ahead at 87-84 in the final period on
a 7-0 spurt fueled by Jason Kidd, but the Lakers went on a 22-10
run to take control.
Five different Lakers
scored during the decisive stretch. Kobe Bryant started the Lakers'
final title drive with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 87, and
O'Neal fittingly concluded it with a pair of free throws with
34 points and 10 rebounds. Bryant scored nine of his 25 points
in the final quarter. Kenyon Martin led the Nets with a game-high
35 points, while Kidd had a sub-par game with 13 points (on 5-of-14
shooting) and five rebounds but did record 12 assists.
when O'Neal was ready, corks banged off a tile ceiling, and they
shouted hysterically when the champagne came.
Bryant, who a year
ago slumped in a shower stall by himself, danced among them. Rick
Fox held the game ball and a Bahamian flag. Derek Fisher turned
his cap backward and shrieked for his third, as though it were
The Lakers would
party to dawn, fly mid-morning, and parade on Friday.
Before the game,
Wednesday night, it was a young Bryant, hanging a Michael Jordan
jersey and a Jordan rookie warm-up shirt in his Continental Airlines
Arena locker for inspiration, because "he's the greatest
of them all," he said.
Fifteen or 20 years
from now some phenom will stride into the NBA Finals' championship
news conference wearing a Laker jersey with a big "8"
on his back, paying homage to superstar Kobe Bryant, and we will
was sort of a great player that didn't have any championships.
Ever since I met Phil, now I have three."
Martin (NJ): "Guys come to play every day, but some guys,
you don't know when they're going to show up. I can deal with
losing, but guys who don't bring it every day, that's something
I can't deal with." (about some of his teammates)
Bryant: "I'm sure Sacramento's working out right now.
We're not going to let our guards down. We're going to come back
next year ready to play. They're going to try to take what we
have and we're going to be waiting for them."
Johnson: "Shoot, by the time he's finished, he could
have nine or 10 championships. That's very realistic." (about
34 pts 10 reb 2 block
Bryant 25 pts 8 assist 6 reb
Horry 12 pts 6 assist
Fisher 13 pts George 11 pts
J. Kidd (NJ) 13 pts 12 assist
K. Martin (NJ) 35 pts 11 reb