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Jackson Still Getting Used to Small Ball

April 23, 2002|Tim Brown

In the hours before his Lakers would open the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers, Coach Phil Jackson snapped that Portland's small lineup "won't work" because the game would be officiated differently and the Lakers would manage it differently.

In Game 1, however, the Trail Blazers had some success with it, just as they had a week before in the double-overtime victory in Portland, and Jackson granted on Monday that there was still strategizing to be done there.

Basically, Portland Coach Maurice Cheeks trades Rasheed Wallace's offense for Shaquille O'Neal's. In it, Wallace often gets open three-point attempts or help in a screen-and-roll scenario against O'Neal, and the Trail Blazers have scored reasonably well.

Conversely, the lanky Wallace must guard O'Neal, a massive mismatch that fatigues Wallace and enlivens O'Neal.

"Shaq has to do damage to their whole psyche as a basketball team by getting layups and easy shots," Jackson said. "Or else, put Wallace in jeopardy of foul trouble. That looks to be what the battle is going to be about in this series."

In any case, the Lakers would like to get the ball to O'Neal faster, before the Trail Blazers can organize their double-teams.


The Lakers had a short, light practice Monday, primarily spent lifting weights and watching film. The players who did not play a lot of minutes Sunday played half-court four-on-four for about an hour, and everyone walked away, despite some dicey moments.

Robert Horry, who recovered from his stomach muscle injury and logged 30 hard minutes against Wallace, left early for a dentist appointment.

O'Neal, who played 43 minutes Sunday--often while draped by Shawn Kemp, sometimes by the rest of the Trail Blazers--said his toe felt fine.

"I'm straight," he said.


There was still some leftover buzz regarding Kobe Bryant's absent afro. Jackson believed it to be an offensive ploy by Bryant.

"I like his haircut, actually," Jackson said. "I thought it was a fine move. I thought it confused [Ruben] Patterson. He didn't recognize Kobe in the first half."

Indeed, Patterson spent 10 minutes being the "Devean Stopper" before realizing his error.


The Lakers will fly home after Game 3 Sunday night, regardless of how the series stands.

If Wednesday's Game 4 is necessary, they will return to Portland on Tuesday.

Tim Brown


Bryant said he expects the Trail Blazers to defend him more physically in Game 2.

Pippen indicated that would be the case.

"I thought we let Kobe get too much penetration," he said.

When asked about helping out on O'Neal, Pippen said: "It wears me down, really, to have to pound the ball and bring it up and run the offense and have to guard Kobe and now being asked to give a hand in on Shaq. It's a lot, but if we're going to win this series, then I've got to figure out a way to do it."

Associated Press

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