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Not That Lakers Want to Complain, but . . .


The Lakers have depended on Shaquille O'Neal for scoring, defense and even free throws all season, and Coach Phil Jackson said they are not about to end the dependence heading into a decisive Game 5 Friday against the Sacramento Kings.

Jackson conceded that O'Neal has grown frustrated after his performances in the Lakers' losses in Games 3 and 4, particularly in two areas: He feels he is being zoned and fouled, and he made only 10 of 26 free throws when the whistle was blown.

"He had a hard time on Sunday [in Game 3]," Jackson said Wednesday. "It's demoralizing to stand at the free-throw line and not make shots. It takes something out of you and it takes something out of the team effort.

"Everybody knows it, and Shaq feels that drain. And it's tough to overcome. So he's had to deal with that."

O'Neal was not available to the media Wednesday.

After scoring 46 points in Game 1, O'Neal has received the full attention of the Kings--who have had Chris Webber in the paint to help Vlade Divac or Scot Pollard.

"The game is just to foul Shaq every time, let the referees make the call," Jackson said. "On every play, Vlade's draped over him. They're trying to claim that he's straight up and down, but he's draped over him on every shot, so everything Shaq shoots has a body on top of him.

"He's feeling like he's fouled on every play, and occasionally getting the call. And that, we say, is a badge of honor.

"I've told him time and time again, Michael [Jordan] got fouled on every play, and yet you can only complain occasionally to let the referees know, and the rest of the time you realize it's a badge of honor because of the greatness that you have."

What the Lakers say they can do is badger the referees into calling illegal-defense violations against Webber, who has spent most of his time far away from the Laker power forwards.

"I had one of my coaches count the illegal defense numbers, and I think [Webber] got to 10 by the time we got to halftime reviewing the film," Jackson said. "It was pretty obvious what their intent is, they're not letting the ball go into Shaq."

Said Laker forward Robert Horry: "What we should do is [complain] like they [complain]. . . . You know, Vlade's a big flopper. If we [complain] enough with them being illegal, maybe they'll call it."

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