YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Lakers Land Rib Shot

Pro basketball: O'Neal scores 32 points and crumbling Trail Blazers fall, 106-88, as L.A. takes 2-0 lead in series.


Composed, the Lakers are a victory from playing through the Portland Trail Blazers, who are going to pieces.

A year wiser, a championship wiser, the Lakers defeated the Trail Blazers, 106-88, on Thursday night at Staples Center and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series that moves to Portland.

As the delicate Trail Blazers' psyches crumbled further, the Lakers went mercilessly to Shaquille O'Neal, who scored 32 points and took 12 rebounds. The chemistry-lab experiment in Portland bubbled up again.

At the end, the technical fouls fell like confetti. Damon Stoudamire. Scottie Pippen. Rasheed Wallace, of course, two with 4:42 to play, and the ejection. The Trail Blazers had five in all, and two ejections.

"We were very composed," Laker forward Robert Horry said. "There was a lot of stuff we could have let get to us but we didn't let it."

On one of the technicals, the one after Stoudamire threw the ball into the air after a charging call, Laker Coach Phil Jackson sent to the line . . . Shaquille O'Neal. He made the free throw.

"You lose two ballgames, there's going to be concerns and natural reactions," Portland Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "There's a frustration with some of the play, the things that go on. There's a lot of contact in there."

On another technical, Pippen grabbed Kobe Bryant, who scored 25 points on eight-of-11 shooting, by the very ribs Pippen claimed to be unhurt. Bryant and Pippen squared off for a moment, but only snapped at each other.

The open, abject hostility that bridged Games 1 and 2 was gone for three quarters, washed away in the mechanics of a game that turned again on O'Neal and all the Trail Blazers must create to hold him.

Then, a few minutes into the fourth quarter, with the Trail Blazers sliding closer to their 0-2 hole, Dale Davis loaded up his left elbow and nearly struck Horry in the chest, then balled his fist and looked trigger-close to punching either Brian Shaw or Derek Fisher. Davis, assessed a second-degree flagrant foul, was ejected.

The Lakers were fortunate it took place in front of their bench, because reserve forward Mark Madsen held Horry away from Davis.

"I'm a funny guy like that," Horry said, "you throw an elbow at my face and I get a little upset."

O'Neal said he had something for the Trail Blazers, for the center he claims flops, for the coach he called "a little girl," for the officials he claims judge him by unfair standards.

What he had was the usual. The heavy-handed dunks. The spin moves. The jump hooks. He scrapped briefly with Steve Smith and Davis early in the fourth quarter, and he and Smith were assessed technical fouls, but otherwise it was O'Neal, more than anything Portland had.

"I thought he was extremely determined," Jackson said. "He was a real force in there. The bodying didn't bother him."

Held to seven-of-21 shooting in Game 1, O'Neal made 14 of 24. Arvydas Sabonis toppled backward and drew an offensive foul, the stuff O'Neal hates, but mostly Sabonis' backpedaling was saved for eluding the shrapnel left from O'Neal's dunks.

As the basketball public waited to see if Pippen, at 35, had picked a fight he could win, as it looked in to see if Dunleavy had drawn a line referees would step across. And, instead of any of that, the Lakers killed them with execution, rebounds, some defense--and a lot of O'Neal.

Then they merely stood back and allowed the Trail Blazers to melt down.

"We kept our composure," O'Neal said. "They took a lot of cheap shots. We're going to see what the league is all about now."

The atmosphere was less electric than it was Sunday, perhaps because so many presumed the Trail Blazers dead.

And that would have explained their second quarter. After missing only five shots in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers made four in the second quarter. They were four for 18.

Bryant played with his ribs delicately wrapped.

"The bandage makes it feel better," he said. "Without it, when I run it hurts a little bit."

And then, somewhere, Pippen raised an eyebrow.

Bryant took his second foul with 5:57 to play in the first quarter, blocking Pippen 10 feet from the basket. A few minutes earlier, he had reached in on Sabonis.

Shaw replaced Bryant, who had a history of foul trouble against the Trail Blazers, most often trying to guard Smith.

With Bryant on the bench, the Trail Blazers worked their first-quarter lead to 25-16, primarily by making open shots on the perimeter. During an early 7-0 run, Pippen made a 22-footer, Wallace made a three-pointer from the top and Sabonis made a 20-footer, also from the top.

The Lakers appeared tentative with their jump shots, waiting for O'Neal to work through double-teams off the ball. They were one for six from beyond the arc in the first quarter. Derek Fisher, who missed three shots in Game 1, missed three in the quarter.

In the first quarter, the Trail Blazers made 13 of 18 shots. Pippen was four for five. Wallace was three for three. Sabonis and Smith combined to make all four of their shots.

Los Angeles Times Articles