Blazers burn L.A., even series

20-0 3rd-quarter run helps Portland roll in Game 2, 106-77

O'Neal: 6 points in 1st half

Wallace, Pippen help get home-court edge

May 23, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

LOS ANGELES - The Portland Trail Blazers didn't need to resort to any questionable tactics to even up the NBA Western Conference finals. They beat the Los Angeles Lakers the old-fashioned way.

Instead of hacking Shaq and complaining about the overly sensitive officiating crew, they played stifling defense and turned the Lakers' star power into so much stardust on the way to a resounding 106-77 victory last night at the sold-out Staples Center.

The Blazers held league MVP Shaquille O'Neal to six points in the first half and broke open the game with a 20-0 run in the third quarter to claim the home-court advantage and send the best-of-seven series to Portland tied at a game apiece.

What a strange turn of events. The Trail Blazers, who looked so desperate on the way to a one-sided loss in Game 1 on Saturday, neutralized O'Neal and guard Kobe Bryant while Portland forwards Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace replaced them as the most dominant offensive players on the floor.

Pippen provided the offensive leadership that carried the Blazers to a three-point halftime lead, scoring 17 or his 21 points before intermission.

Wallace, who was ejected from the opener for glaring at referee Ron Garretson, kept his cool and led the third-quarter assault that changed the complexion of the series. He finished with a game-high 29 points.

The Portland defense did the rest, doubling up on O'Neal and preventing Bryant from getting in position to make anything happen. The Lakers' bench, which came up so big in Game 1, contributed just one three-point basket while the game was coming apart in the third quarter. O'Neal finally came to life with 14 points in the final quarter and finished with a team-high 23, but it was much too little and much too late.

In short, everything that went right for the Lakers in Game 1 went wrong in Game 2."Obviously, I was real pleased with our performance for 48 minutes defensively," said Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We were much more aggressive ... much more so than in the first game. We moved the ball well and we got some good looks at the basket."

Mission accomplished.

The Blazers came to Los Angeles looking to win one of the first two games and return to Portland with a chance to take control of the series at home."That was quite a game by Portland," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "I don't think they shot 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."

The Blazers never needed to resort to the "hack-a-Shaq" strategy that turned Saturday's game into an argument for a rule revision. Center Arvydas Sabonis bounced back from a horrible game on Saturday to establish a presence inside and Wallace turned in a dominating 46-minute performance after missing most of the second half on Saturday."It was nice to see Rasheed for the full complement," Dunleavy said. "I figured he hadn't played much in the first game, so I played him more."

The Trail Blazers certainly appeared to grasp the gravity of their situation. They jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead and took O'Neal out of the game - both literally and figuratively - in the first half."We pretty much played the same game plan as Game 1," said Pippen. "They just didn't shoot the ball as well tonight. I thought defensively we were a little bit faster tonight."

O'Neal did not score his first points until there were 29 seconds left in the first quarter and spent much of the second period on the bench with three fouls. He took a pounding every time he got the ball, but got little help from the officials and left the court muttering at them late in the first half."He's a great player," Dunleavy said. "It took a lot of players to hold him down. Tonight we had some success."

Still, the Lakers rebounded from the early Portland run, but neither team displayed much offensive rhythm.

There was a point in the second quarter where the Lakers' offense was so ineffective that Jackson pulled all his starters and played for a brief period with a lineup made up totally of the players at the other end of the bench.

Dunleavy obviously was determined to get Sabonis right into the flow of the game, and why not? The big center did not score a point and had just one rebound in Game 1, but he came out and took the first two shots of the game for Portland - missing a short hook and then sinking the same shot for the first Blazers basket.

He played with much more confidence than in Game 1, but it was the leadership of Pippen that carried the Trail Blazers into the locker room with a 48-45 halftime lead."I really thought it was an awful first half," said Jackson. "I thought that if we could play that bad and they were only ahead by three, all we had to do was play a little better in the second half. That was my message to the team at halftime, but we came out and played even worse."

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