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NBA Playoffs 2004, First round - Lakers vs. Rockets

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NBA Playoffs 2004 First Round
Los Angeles Lakers 4 vs. Houston Rockets 1

Game 1: Lakers 72 - Rockets 71 at L.A. Game recap & pictures
Game 2: Lakers 98 - Rockets 84 at L.A. Game recap & pictures
Game 3: Rockets 102 - Lakers 91 at Hou Game recap & pictures
Game 4: Lakers 92 - Rockets 88 at Hou Game recap & pictures
Game 5: Lakers 97 - Rockets 78 at L.A. Game recap & pictures

Back to Playoffs 2004

GAME 1:  Lakers 72 - Rockets 71

At least a victory.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 20: O'Neal 17: O'Neal 6: Bryant
Houston 18: Francis 12: Jackson 5: Francis
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 20 20 9 23 72
Hou 18 16 17 20 71
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming)
click for pictures
STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. This wasn't a nice game, neither it was what the Lakers expected from their roster full of superstars, but at least it was a victory. Ugly? maybe, but we are in the Playoffs and winning is the goal.
O'Neal's only basket of the second half was the dunk that gave the Lakers the triumph 72-71.
With 17.4 second remaining and the Rockets leading the game 71-70, Kobe Bryant tried a 3-pointer that missed everything but fell into Shaq's hands, who made the final points of the game with Yao Ming trying to stop him.
In a game played with good defense and poor shooting, J. Jackson had a last opportunity for the Rockets but his shot came up short.
Houston collected more rebounds (51-41), but committed 22 turnovers to 15 for Los Angeles. It was a really poor shooting game: the Lakers shot for a 32.9 percent; the Rockets 38.2.
The Rockets made a good defense on Kobe Bryant who preferred to move the ball in the first half where he only tried one shot. This time was different from the game with Sacramento when he refused to take open shots. The Rockets are a good defensive team and Kobe did a good ball movement to avoid the defense. He was erratic in the second half, shooting 4-for-19 from the field.
The first battle in the anticipated matchup between Shaq and Yao was clearly won by Shaq with 20 points and 17 rebounds, including 8 offensive rebounds and that final dunk.
Shaq scored 16 of those 20 pts in the first half where the Lakers took the lead 40-36, but in the first 8 minutes of the third quarter the Rockets held the Lakers to 2 pts and outscored them 17-9 in that period.
Four players were in doubt for this game: Malone with a sprained ankle, Fox with a dislocated thumb, Fisher with a strained groin muscle and George with a strained calf, but all of them played some minutes.
The combined 143 points was a franchise low for the Lakers in a playoff game.

The Quotes

Gary Payton (LA): "We're not going to miss that many again"
Shaquille O'Neal (LA): "It was an ugly game"
Yao Ming (Hou): "At least for now, I think he's a little bit better than I am."


Shaquille O'Neal: 20 pts 17 reb (8off)
Kobe Bryant: 16 pts 5 reb 6 ast 5 steal
Gary Payton: 11 pts 4 ast
Karl Malone: 7pts 11 reb 4 ast 3 steal
Steve Francis (Hou): 18 pts 9 reb 5 ast
Yao Ming( Hou): 10 pts 11 reb

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GAME 2:  Lakers 98 - Rockets 84

Kobe gave his show and Malone got his touch back

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 36: Bryant 8: Malone 7: Payton
Houston 21: Ming 10: Francis 12: Francis
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 23 21 30 24 98
Hou 22 24 18 20 84
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant, Steve Francis)
click for pictures
STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. Shaquille O'Neal took a day off and scored only 7 points, the lowest in playoffs for his career, but it didn't matter because his teammates came to play this time.
Kobe Bryant scored 36 points, 17 in the third quarter when the Lakers took control of the game.
Karl Malone got his touch back, scoring 17 points, finishing with 8 rebounds and 4 assists and giving Yao Ming a couple of free lessons about the playoffs.
Shaq had a good start when he blocked Yao Ming twice in the same possession, but he played all the game limited by foul trouble. He was on the floor only 33 minutes and made 3 of 9 attempts, took 7 rebounds and gave 4 blocks.
Kobe was aggressive from the beginning, going strong to the paint, sometimes with three or four men trying to stop him. The result were those 36 points and some spectacular plays that made everybody forget the ugly game 1.
Yao scored 21 points in 40 minutes but never could establish himself as a dominant player, at least not the way one expect from a 7-6 giant. During the second quarter, while O'Neal was out of the game, Malone guarded Yao and in one memorable play he stepped back as Yao tried to make contact with him and the giant ended up seated on the floor called for traveling. Yao smiled on his way back through the court but made it clear he has learned a couple of insults in English.
Derek Fisher, Kareem Rush and Luke Walton contributed 5 3-pointers that were clearly out of Jeff Van Gundy's script. Every time the Rockets thought they had the Lakers offense under control one of these players took open shots that made the ex New York Knicks coach to call for a minute to reorganize his team.
In the second playoff game of his career, Steve Francis had a triple double for Houston with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists.
Medvedenko, who backs up O'Neal at center and Malone at power forward, suffered a strained right Achilles' tendon in the second quarter and did not return. His status for Game 3 is uncertain.
The best-of-seven series moves to Houston for Games 3 and 4 Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
Since 1969 the Lakers have won 25 straight after taking the first two games.

The Quotes

Karl Malone (LA):"When Shaq picked up those fouls, everyone realized what they had to do. It was a great team effort."
Jeff Van Gundy (Hou coach): "We need to keep him (Kobe Bryant) out of the paint and off the free throw line, he was outstanding tonight.''


Kobe Bryant: 36 pts 4 ast
Shaquille O'Neal: 7 pts 7 reb 4 bl
Karl Malone: 17 pts 8 reb 4 ast
Gary Payton: 6 pts 7 ast
Fisher (LA): 11 pts / Rush (LA): 10 pts
Steve Francis (Hou): 18 pts 10 reb 12 ast 3 st
Yao Ming (Hou): 21 pts 4 reb
J. Jackson (Hou); 19 pts 5 reb

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GAME 3:  Rockets 102 - Lakers 91

Lakers forgot O'Neal

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 25: O'Neal 11: O'Neal 7: Payton
Houston 27: Francis 10: Ming 7: Francis
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 23 20 19 29 91
Hou 29 27 18 28 102
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming)
click for pictures
TOYOTA CENTER - HOUSTON. The Lakers forgot the formula that gave them good results in the past: give the ball to that big man you have there.
O'Neal scored 11 of the Lakers' first 15 points and 10 points in the fourth quarter but didn't get the ball in between and made it clear he is not happy with it. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Francis had 27 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and finished the Lakers aspirations with a couple of acrobatic layups late in the fourth quarter.
He got good contributions: Cuttino Mobley scored 21 points, Yao Ming scored 18 and Maurice Taylor came off the bench to add 16.
In the first playoff game played in Houston since 1999, the Rockets had control of the score all the time. It was 56-43 at intermission and 74-62 at the end of the third quarter. A bank shot in the lane by Bryant made it 90-86, but the Rockets answered with 7-0 run and that was all.
The Lakers didn't rotate well on defense, leaving the Rockets wide open for three-pointers and the Rockets made the most of it. After making only 5 of 22 three-point shots in the first 2 games, they made 9 of 16 in this game.
Derek Fisher played the final quarter in place of Gary Payton and with 11:11 left, he made the 125th three-point basket of his playoff career and became the No. 1 in that category in Laker history. In his last 19 postseason games, he is shooting 42-63 from 3-point range.
Payton sat out the fourth quarter for a second consecutive game (and you can imagine how pleased he is).
Slava Medvedenko was out with a strained right Achilles' tendon.

The Quotes

Shaquille O'Neal (LA): "I'm proven like two plus two. I shouldn't have to say anything... I got the ball and I was doing my thing, then I didn't see it for a while. That's been going on all year.'' And about Steve Francis: "He's going to have to pull another couple of circus shots out, because we're kind of upset and we're going to be ready to play, so, (game 4) is going to be a different game."
Jeff Van Gundy (Hou coach): about Yao Ming... "He's very humble, which is a blessing and, at times, a curse"
Steve Francis (Hou): "That, was my best playoff game ever"... it was also his third playoff game ever.


Shaquille O'Neal: 25 pts 11 reb
Kobe Bryant: 21 pts 7 reb 6 ast 3 steals
Karl Malone: 18 pts 11 reb
Gary Payton: 7 pts 7 ast
Derek Fisher: 10 pts
Steve Francis (Hou): 27 pts 9 reb 7 ast
Yao Ming (Hou): 18 pts 10 reb
C. Mobley (Hou): 21 pts 5 reb 5 ast
M.Taylor (Hou): 16 pts
J. Jackson (Hou); 11 pts 10 reb 5 ast

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GAME 4:  Lakers 92 - Rockets 88

Malone was inspired and Kobe did his job.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 30: Malone 13: Malone 7: Payton
Houston 17: Francis 20: Jackson 9: Francis
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot
LAL 21 24 24 12 11 92
Hou 24 17 18 22 7 88
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Karl Malone)
click for pictures
TOYOTA CENTER - HOUSTON. Malone led the Lakers with 30 points, 13 rebounds and a lot of energy, Kobe scored the decisive points (as usual) and the Lakers, after blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead, overcame a four-point overtime deficit to get the 92-88 victory.
It is the first time the 40-year-old Malone scores 30 points as a Laker. By halftime he had 20 points and 8 rebounds with the Lakers up 45-41.
They took their lead to as many as 14 points late in the third quarter. But in the fourth they went more than 8 minutes without hitting a single field goal. Fifteen consecutive possessions desapeared without making a basket and allowing the Rockets to send the game to overtime.
Kobe Bryant missed 14 of 21 shots but he scored 6 of his 18 points in overtime, including two game-turning plays in the final 1:12: He stole the ball from Jackson near the Rockets' three-point line and made a running eight-foot bank shot to make it 88-87 for the lakers, then in the next posession he made a basket and was fouled by Taylor in a three-point play that put the Lakers ahead for good with 40 seconds left.
Malone ended up with a ripped jersey that he refused to change at halftime because he was playing great with it.

The Quotes

Kobe Bryant (LA): "I love those situations. That's what I do, close teams out"
Karl Malone (LA): about the ripped jersey... "They tried to get me to change it, they said it looked bad for TV. I said I don't care, I'm wearing my shirt. I almost had to fight (Shaquille O'Neal) for it afterward. I'm taking it home to my little boy, and he's going to love it."


Karl Malone: 30 pts 13 reb 3 steals
Kobe Bryant: 18 pts 6 reb 5 ast
Shaquille O'Neal: 17 pts 12 reb
Gary Payton: 13 pts 6 reb 7 ast
Steve Francis (Hou): 17 pts 5 reb 9 ast
Yao Ming (Hou): 16 pts 7 reb
J. Jackson (Hou); 16 pts 20 reb
C. Mobley (Hou): 16 pts 5 reb
K. Cato (Hou): 12 pts 7 reb

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GAME 5:  Lakers 97 - Rockets 78

Kobe came back in time.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 31: Bryant 9: O'Neal 10: Bryant
Houston 17: Jackson 12: Cato 5: Francis
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 24 23 25 25 97
Hou 27 21 9 21 78
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant, Yao Ming, Steve Francis)
click for pictures
STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. The Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 97-78 to win their first-round series 4-1.
After spending most of the last three days in a Colorado courtroom and flying to arrive in time to play, Kobe Bryant had 31 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists, including 11 points and 4 assists that were part of a 33-7 run that put the Lakers away 82-59.
Karl Malone had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, and Shaquille O'Neal added 12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocked shots, playing and excellent defensive game. In a two-minute span in the third quarter Shaq blocked Yao twice and Steve Francis once. The final proof that he is still the most dominant center of this game. Yao Ming is bigger and younger but he is not aggressive enough to deal with Shaq. With his 12 points he also passed Larry Bird for sixth on the all-time playoff scoring list.
Kobe missed his first three shots of the game and then made six in a row. He was 8-of-13 for 20 points at halftime (also added 6assists and 5 rebounds) with the Rockets ahead by 1 point, 48-47. But leaded by Kobe on offense and Shaq on defense the Lakers destroyed the Rockets 25-9 in the third period and that was all for Houston in the Playoffs. Kobe left the game with six minutes remaining in the fourth to a standing ovation.
Medvedenko, recovered from his strained right Achilles' tendon, scored 12 points in 18 minutes.
Now they will face the current champion San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Semifinals and will have the opportunity to take revenge from last year elimination.

The Quotes

Phil Jackson (LA coach): "I think that Kobe and I have a very good relationship at this time. As far, comparatively, at the beginning of the season and the middle of the season, which was mostly due to my hands-off attitude... He's been my designated floor general for the last couple weeks. I think that he's doing a good job, and I'm telling him that."
Yao Ming (Hou): "It was a confidence problem. Being young is part of the problem, but we don't want to continue to hide behind that."
J. Jackson
(Hou): "Don't help him up. What are you doing?" he shouted angrily to his teammate Cato who was trying to help Malone to get up from the floor...


Kobe Bryant: 31 pts 6 reb 10 ast 3 steal
Karl Malone: 18 pts 9 reb 5 ast
Shaquille O'Neal: 12 pts 9 reb 5 ast 4 blk
Gary Payton: 5 pts 3 ast
Slava Medvedenko: 12 pts 3 steal
J. Jackson (Hou): 17 pts 5 reb
Steve Francis (Hou): 16 pts 9 reb 5 ast
Yao Ming (Hou): 10 pts 5 reb 4 blk
C. Mobley (Hou): 16 pts / K. Cato (Hou) : 12 reb

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