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NBA PLAYOFFS / GAME 4, PHOENIX 117, LAKERS 98

Quiet Time for Rice Has Been on Court

NBA playoffs: Laker forward doesn't like a lot of noise made about it, but he's still struggling with shot in series.

May 15, 2000|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHOENIX — Shhhhhhh.

There's no need to shout. Glen Rice can tell what's going on as well as anyone. Like, say, early in the third quarter Sunday, when Shawn Marion of the Suns was beating him downcourt. The action stopped for a timeout, and Laker assistant coach Tex Winter got on Rice, screaming as he walked to the bench to get back on defense. The volume was turned up.

Don't yell, Rice responded. Just talk.

It's like that with the shooting. Rice knows he's struggling, in the series and in the playoffs as a whole. He calmly explains that his jumper just isn't falling and that, maybe, he's pressing a bit from thinking about it too much.

Screaming about it doesn't solve anything, remember? So the message from Laker fans comes in the calmest of tones, but most pleading of ways.

Feel free to join in any time. Please!

Rice is shooting 29.5% in the Western Conference semifinals that were extended with Phoenix's 117-98 rout Sunday, denying the Lakers the sweep. He's shooting 38.6% in the postseason. He was four for 14 Sunday, two for nine in Game 3, five for 12 in Game 2, and two for nine in Game 1.

The only break he got Sunday was that the Lakers had enough problems to go around--and around and around--but that's still 13 for 44 from the field for the series and 39 for 101 for all nine playoff games.

He knows, he knows.

"The shots are not falling," Rice said. "One of the things I try not to do when the shot's not falling, I try not to think about it too much. I think there's been a few occasions where I went out there and thought about it too much.

"I'm getting pretty good looks. I just need to keep shooting. I tend, when a couple of shots don't fall, to not look at the rim as aggressively as I should. I need to keep being aggressive."

The Lakers are counting on it, and him. All three postseason losses, after all, have come with poor contributions from the player who was acquired to stretch the defense with his three-point range, a factor that becomes all the more important when teams downshift to the conservative half-court style to protect every possession.

Yet, there it is:

* Rice made five of 10 shots in Game 2 of the first round against Sacramento and the Lakers won. . . . and then made five of 13, with four turnovers, and they lost the next game.

* Rice made four of 12 shots in Game 4 against the Kings and the Lakers lost. . . . and then made five of 10, with six assists and five rebounds, and they won the next game.

And then came America West Arena on Sunday. When the Lakers needed a boost, none was coming.

"I think we're doing a real good job at not giving him a lot of room for his pull-ups," Sun forward Clifford Robinson said. "But at the same time, he's their third option. Sometimes it's tough when you're not getting as many looks as you're used to."

Except that Rice has been dealing with that since coming to the Lakers in March 1999. Something is different now. He's about to become a free agent. Maybe he's pressing to impress.

"No," Rice corrects, sounding miffed for the first time.

"What ever gave you that idea?"

Common sense.

"If I was trying to impress too much, I'd go out and shoot 50 times a game, just look out for Glen Rice," he said. "That's not the plan."

Got it.

Loud and clear.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Downward Trend

Key statistics for Laker starting forwards Glen Rice and A.C. Green in the series against Phoenix compared with their other numbers this season:

GLEN RICE

*--*

Category Season vs. Sac. vs. Pho. Points 15.9 16.0 11.3 FG% .430 .456 .295 3-pt FG% .367 .308 .273 FT% .874 .857 .867 Rebounds 4.1 4.8 4.5 Assists 2.2 3.4 1.8

*--*

A.C. GREEN

*--*

Category Season vs. Sac. vs. Pho. Minutes 23.5 23.4 17.0 Points 5.0 4.8 2.8 FG% .447 .333 .308 Rebounds 5.9 4.8 4.0 Assists 1.0 1.0 0.5

*--*

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