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SERIES REPORT | BLAZER NOTES

Players Appear to Support Hack-a-Shaq

May 22, 2000|LONNIE WHITE

A day after losing Game 1 by 15 points to the Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers did not seem to care about the criticism they've received for the Hack-a-Shaq tactic they used in the fourth quarter against Shaquille O'Neal.

"It gave us an opportunity to win," forward Brian Grant said Sunday before Portland's workout at Staples Center. "It worked for a while. We had opportunities to cut their lead to as low as seven, but we just couldn't put the ball in the hole. We're behind whatever Coach [Mike Dunleavy] has in store for us."

And if that is the case, Dunleavy did not talk like a coach ready to alter his strategies.

"Percentages are going to be what your percentage is," he said. "It's based over time and that's what it is. [O'Neal] took a number of shots yesterday . . . and he shot under 50%. That's good strategy."

During the regular season, O'Neal shot 52.4% from the free-throw line but in the playoffs, his numbers have dropped. Over the first two rounds, he made only 46.2% and in Game 1 on Saturday, O'Neal made 13 of 27.

Portland's veteran players such as Steve Smith and Scottie Pippen also support Dunleavy's decision to keep fouling O'Neal to put him on the free-throw line.

"It would have been to our advantage if we had scored when we were doing it," Smith said. "There are different philosophies, different strategies to use at different parts of the game. We were down a lot and we had to do something. We don't want to put ourselves in that position to have to do that but if we are, we might have to do it. . . . The flow of the game will dictate that."

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Point guard Damon Stoudamire had some success on offense in Game 1, scoring 10 points and dishing out four assists, but he struggled on defense trying to guard Kobe Bryant, who is nine inches taller.

"We have to do a better job of protecting Damon when that is the matchup," Dunleavy said.

Stoudamire said he'll be more physical against Bryant tonight in Game 2.

"I know I have to try and stop him better," Stoudamire said. "I'm looking to fight him a little more and maybe even take a couple of fouls to let him know I'm there. Because right now, I think he feels he has a big advantage."

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Center Arvydas Sabonis played 22 minutes in Game 1 and didn't score a point but Dunleavy defended his play . . . somewhat.

"The box score looks like he came up with zeros but there were probably six or eight points that can be attributed to him," Dunleavy said. "And then there were four or six points that were missed on shots that were easy shots."

Dunleavy said Sabonis did not do too bad trying to guard O'Neal.

"He was working hard on the defense end, but he has a tough load," Dunleavy said, "to take all the banging and the physical play needed in order to guard Shaq. But we still need more production out of him. . . . We need to get him the ball a little bit more to give him opportunities."

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