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SPORTS EXTRA / NBA PLAYOFFS

Rice Heats Up in a 33rd-Birthday Surprise

Pro basketball: Struggling forward celebrates his big day with playoff-high 21 points, 12 in decisive third quarter.

May 29, 2000|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORTLAND, Ore. — Glen Rice celebrated his 33rd birthday Sunday, and the Lakers celebrated Glen Rice.

"We had to have him, I think," Ron Harper said.

"Once he decides to make things happen," Derek Fisher said, "he can really take over."

This was one of those times: Halftime of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, the Lakers down by five points after scoring only 42 in the first half, Kobe Bryant only two of nine from the field, Shaquille O'Neal four of 10, the entire team at 36.8%, Rice with more turnovers (four) than shots (three) and as many fouls as baskets (two).

Then, the third quarter.

Let the party begin.

Coach Phil Jackson, needing to jump-start his small forward, called the first play of the half for Rice. It became a driving layup and, including a free throw after a foul by Rasheed Wallace, a three-point play. It also became the beginning of the end of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Fifty seconds later, Rice made a free throw after a technical foul on Portland Coach Mike Dunleavy. Twenty-eight seconds after that, he hit a 25-foot shot, a three-pointer. Later, a pull-up jumper in transition, then a straightaway three-pointer.

And many moooooore.

Rice scored 12 points in the quarter, and the Lakers went from five down to 10 up.

He scored 21 in all, and the Lakers went on to a 103-91 victory at the Rose Garden that gave them a 3-1 lead in the series.

Most significantly for the Lakers, it was his first 20-point game of the playoffs, after he had averaged 12.9 in the previous 13 games and 9.7 in the series. Not just that, it was his first 20-point game in six weeks, since he scored 24 against the Sacramento Kings on April 14. And he attempted 14 shots after taking 22 in the first three games of the conference finals.

"I told Glen to do the same thing I did on my birthday," O'Neal said. "Because on my birthday, I shot it every time."

No joke. O'Neal attempted a season-high 35 shots, and scored a career-high 61 points, on March 6 against the Clippers.

Rice played things a little more conservatively, taking six shots in the third quarter and only five the rest of the game. Of course, after making four of six, two from behind the arc, it amounted to a breakout performance, for the game and for the playoffs. Just as he had planned.

"I was kind of disappointed in my play the first half," he said. "I had too many turnovers.

"I had already made up my mind I was going to be aggressive and give my team a spark."

He gave them a flame instead.

"Once everybody got excited seeing me do my thing, it kind of had a snowball effect," Rice said.

Those were the Trail Blazers caught in the avalanche, losing their lead and their chance to capitalize on playing at home. They saw Rice get his shots and his confidence, probably in that order, dooming the Trail Blazers just as they were feeling good about the defensive job they were doing on Bryant.

"I've known him all my life. He's a guy who's capable of doing that," Trail Blazer Steve Smith said. "Unfortunately, he got hot in the third quarter. He hit some tough shots with my hand in his face."

Said Fisher: "It's been a while. He's such a great shooter, he's almost always in the flow. But I think he took the third quarter on his shoulders. He didn't wait for us to find him for his shots. He made sure we found him for his shots."

"Glen is really a guy that once he gets things like that in his head, he can really get going. . . . He's a guy who's really self-motivated. Once he decides to make things happen, he can really take over."

Piece of cake.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Turning Point . . . Again

The Lakers, for the second consecutive game in Portland, came back from a halftime deficit to take the lead at the end of the third quarter and go on to win. Key statistics from the third quarter of Game 4 for the teams and small forwards Glen Rice of the Lakers and Scottie Pippen of the Trail Blazers:

*--*

CATEGORY LAKERS PORTLAND RICE PIPPEN POINTS 34 19 12 4 FIELD GOALS (Made-Attempted) 14-20 5-17 4-6 1-5 THREE-POINT SHOTS (Made-Attempted) 3-4 0-3 2-3 0-2 FREE THROWS (Made-Attempted) 3-3 9-12 2-2 2-2 REBOUNDS 11 5 3 0

*--*

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