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SERIES REPORT

Preview Capsules

May 19, 2000|MARK HEISLER

* Story line: Here it is, the matchup everyone has waited for all season. This is going to be a defensive struggle. In four meetings, the highest either team scored was Portland's 97 points in its Nov. 6 win at the Rose Garden, when Shaquille O'Neal was ejected. The Lakers hope to prevail because they have the two best scorers in the series, O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. However, the Trail Blazers have proven they can take O'Neal away or at least contain him, holding him to 20.5 points a game and 50% from the floor during the season, well under his overall averages. Moreover, if O'Neal is going to be the man, he'll have to make more free throws than he has been making (46.2% in playoffs), because Portland Coach Mike Dunleavy has shown he'll go to the Hack-a-Shaq. The Trail Blazers hope to wear the Lakers down with superior numbers and size--the things that have worried Phil Jackson all season. I don't know how Jackson's going to make up for that if the Trail Blazers get O'Neal under control.

* Prediction: Portland in six.

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