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SERIES REPORT | LAKERS NOTES

Jackson Issues a Sweeping Statement

May 14, 2000|TIM KAWAKAMI

PHOENIX — No Laker evoked the memory, although they could have: The last time the Lakers were poised to sweep a playoff series, they lost successive games to the Sacramento Kings and were forced into a nerve-racking decisive Game 5.

Coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers know that the Phoenix Suns, trailing, 3-0, in this Western Conference semifinal series, will have little option but throwing everything they have at the Lakers in today's Game 4.

"I think close-out games are very difficult games," Jackson said before practice Saturday at America West Arena. "You've got to find a way to hang around and then find usually a way to win at the end. . . .

"We're going to have to play through a long period of the game and make them think about how long and hard the series is going to be and give them some doubts, make them have some doubts, so that they question the ability to come back and win this series."

Ron Harper said the Lakers just want to finish the series, and don't have any special feelings about pulling off a sweep.

"We want to get the job done, we want to close out this series," Harper said. "Whether it's a sweep or not, as long as you get past the series, that's all that counts."

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If the Lakers win today, they are looking at the possibility of five or six days off before starting the Western Conference finals, which is appealing to forward Rick Fox, whose wife, Vanessa Williams gave birth to their daughter two weeks ago in New York.

"It'd mean a lot to me," Fox said, "because maybe I'd get to see my daughter for the first time [since the birth]."

Fox said his six-point performance in Friday's Game 3 was the first time he felt comfortable on court since the days before he left the team to be with his wife.

"The [Sacramento] series for me . . . the nerves were going for numerous reasons," Fox said. "But now I've settled into this series.

"Last night, being able to help and contribute, felt good. I'm sure the opportunity will come somewhere down the road that I'll be able to do more than I've given so far."

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Shaquille O'Neal, facing several kinds of double-teams, has had slow starts against the Suns and still has averaged 37.3 points and 17 rebounds. He has made 58.4% of his field goals.

"I think the concept is that he knows it's going to be a long game," Jackson said. "He doesn't have to come out and start on fire.

"Maybe someone else can pick it up for us, and ultimately it had to be him that got us going in this game."

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