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Lakers Show They Have Some Reserve Strength

Game 1: Second unit outplays Trail Blazers in crucial second quarter as L.A. builds 21-point halftime lead and rolls.


The so-called experts all gave the edge to the Portland Trail Blazers over the Lakers when it came to bench strength. They said the Lakers couldn't match up because of the Trail Blazers' overall depth, which includes a second unit many believe is good enough to start on most teams around the league.

But in the second quarter Saturday of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the Lakers' reserves blitzed the Trail Blazers'. After the first quarter ended with the score tied at 26-26, the Laker reserves blew the game open in the second and the Lakers went on to win, 109-94, at Staples Center.

Led by Robert Horry, the Lakers' second unit outshot, out-hustled and basically outplayed the Trail Blazers, helping the Lakers to a 21-point halftime lead.

"We didn't hype it up like that, [the media] did that," said Portland forward Scottie Pippen, who denied that the Trail Blazers believed their bench to be superior.

During the Lakers' key second-quarter run, Coach Phil Jackson actually used his reserves more than Portland Coach Mike Dunleavy used his. Laker guard Brian Shaw played the entire second quarter, forward Rick Fox played 10 minutes and Horry played eight.

The Trail Blazers, who dominated opponents most of the season in the second quarter with their reserves, ended up giving more playing time to their starters on Saturday. Backup guards Bonzi Wells and Greg Anthony played a combined seven minutes and Brian Grant played only five.

"I thought we carried out the game plan well, but the second quarter pretty much did us in," Dunleavy said. "We fell down in the defensive end, in some coverages, but more importantly, they made some shots. [The Lakers] did a good job moving the basketball."

The Lakers' ball movement was made easier by Portland's poor rotations. By making the extra pass, the Lakers always seemed to have someone open for a three-point attempt.

Horry made three of four shots from behind the arc and Fox and Shaw hit their only long-distance attempts as the Lakers made six of eight three-pointers in the quarter.

After the game, The Trail Blazers gave credit to the Lakers' backups but also pointed out that most of the damage came when starters Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were on the court.

"You have to put so much concern on Shaq and Kobe, you have to double-team those guys once they get the ball down by the basket," Wells said. "We just left Robert Horry and Brian Shaw open to hit key three-pointers and that just buried us right there."

In the second half, Portland's reserves fared much better as Dunleavy turned to Wells, Grant and even seldom-used big man Jermaine O'Neal late in the third quarter.

"It was real tough [trying to get back into the game], Coach Dunleavy went with the bench and we tried to run like we do in practice," said Wells, who had 17 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. "We tried to run hard and make something happen."

Portland's reserves did just that as the Trail Blazers cut their deficit to nine points in the fourth quarter. But that was as close as they would get despite their "Hack-a-Shaq" tactics.

"We started to get back into the flow and do our thing but when you have to dig yourself out of a 24-point deficit that makes it hard," said Grant, who had nine points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

"They are a great team. It's difficult to keep pounding on them and have them not score. They are going to score every once in a while. You might score six points to their two or four and that's a long process trying to catch up."

The Trail Blazers have only today to rest and figure things out before Monday night's Game 2 and they can only hope their reserves start off like they finished Game 1.

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