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Lakers' Victory Is Finalized Early

Pro basketball: Bryant (37) and O'Neal (27) dominate Pacers in first matchup since title series, 124-107.

November 29, 2000|TIM BROWN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Indiana Pacers came, probably, to play Game 7, the one the Lakers had canceled five months ago.

They came, perhaps, to soothe the rancor of a summer spent reliving the six games they actually did play in the NBA finals, the four they lost in particular.

The NBA finals ended before the Pacers had a chance to win.

And so, as it turned out, did the first regular-season meeting since that first Laker championship in 12 years.

The Lakers defeated the Pacers, 124-107, before 18,997 at Staples Center, where Kobe Bryant scored 37 points, which matched his season high, and Shaquille O'Neal scored 27 and took 14 rebounds. The Lakers won their fifth consecutive game.

"It turned out to be an advantage game for us and we ended up shooting a zillion three-pointers," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said.

The Lakers made 15 of 27 three-point shots, including four by Ron Harper, who scored a season-high 21 points.

"He's a big-game player," Jackson said of Harper.

While the Pacers were gone, the Lakers had a big party, a parade and a ring ceremony. In that time, the Pacers revamped the organization, starting with coach Larry Bird, who retired. Isiah Thomas took his place.

Rik Smits retired to rest his aching feet. Mark Jackson took the money in Toronto. Dale Davis was traded to Portland.

Though Jalen Rose was back on the court for his third game after breaking his wrist in training camp, he has moved to point guard. Therefore, only Reggie Miller is in the exact position where the Lakers left him. Laker fans recognized him immediately, of course, and taunted him frequently, particularly as the Lakers built big second-half leads.

All of which left Austin Croshere or Jermaine O'Neal to guard Shaq, the result of which was fairly predictable. O'Neal went often and hard to the basket and scored 23 first-half points, despite missing a handful of easy shots.

Rose told a newspaper in Indianapolis that every game against the Lakers would be personal.

"I feel like Magic, Kobe, Shaq, those guys are walking around with my ring," Rose said.

"He said that?" O'Neal said.

The Lakers and Pacers got up their disdain for each other fast.

Not halfway through the first quarter, O'Neal snapped at Miller. Miller snapped back. They both received technical fouls.

Not long after, Miller and Bryant jawed at each other. The crowd yelled nasty things at Miller. Miller raised his arms, asking for more, and so it rained down from the rafters upon him.

Then, early in the fourth quarter, in case all was forgotten or forgiven, Derrick McKey was ejected for a flagrant foul against Bryant. As Bryant swooped to the basket, McKey clobbered him, arms up near Bryant's face.

Six seconds later, Bryant made a three-pointer in front of the Pacer bench. When he turned and taunted the Pacers--Thomas, it appeared, in particular--Bryant was assessed a technical foul.

"Any team that plays us will play hard," O'Neal said. "We established the inside-outside game like we should do every game. Simplicity is the best way."

Bryant walked into the arena having averaged 30.4 points in his previous nine games, having shot 47.9% overall and having made 41.4% of his three-pointers.

He made 11 of 24 shots against the Pacers, including three of six three-pointers.

Before the game, Phil Jackson appeared positively satisfied with Bryant.

"His choice of shots has just improved dramatically," Jackson said. "He shot shots he could make [against the Clippers on Monday] 75%. That's where guys have to make their decisions on shooting good shots. My discussion with Kobe was, 'You're shooting 40% because you're taking 40% shots. What you've got to do is start shooting shots that are going to get that percentage where you want it to be.' Lately, he's been very, very efficient in what he chooses. He's made very good decisions."

And, then?

"I actually told him you might become as good as Michael Jordan," Jackson said, grinning.

Said Bryant: "I just tried to get my teammates involved and we played good enough defense to get a lead.

"They are such a different ballclub. Last year they had so much experience. They knew how to win and stay in the ballgame. It looked easy, but we fought hard for this."

LAKERS Rider Fined

for Late Arrival

Isaiah Rider was benched for the first half and fined when he arrived nearly one hour late for Tuesday night's game. He played only four minutes. D9

CLIPPERS

Trade Is Made

to Ease Squeeze

Minutes may be easier to get after the Clippers traded swingman Tyrone Nesby to Washington for Cherokee Parks and Obinna Ekezie. D8

ALSO

Fresh Start for Seattle

The SuperSonics defeated the Trail Blazers, 105-93, in their first game with new coach. D9

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