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CHARTING THE LEAD: A look at the Lakers' lead or deficit by the minute


Highlight reel: Well, the Mavericks sure looked good polishing off the Timberwolves in three games, which makes you wonder: Why couldn't NBC put the Lakers and Trail Blazers in a little box in the corner while sticking with the conclusion of the Dallas-Minnesota game? It's called a lack of imagination, boys and girls. Meanwhile, in Portland, the Lakers and Trail Blazers toss bricks at the basket in a lackluster opening six minutes. Or so we're told by NBC's announcing crew in Minneapolis. By the time we get to Portland, it's 9-6, Trail Blazers, and 5:56 remains in the quarter. Nice work.

Not in the box score: A sense of urgency. Where's the passion? Where's the emotion? Perhaps both teams know what's to come and feel powerless to change the inevitable.

Winning number: The Trail Blazers forced the Lakers to miss six of their first seven shots.

Wrong number: 19-19. After defending well enough to keep the Lakers off balance, the best Portland can do is a tie after the first quarter.

Leading scorers: Lakers--Kobe Bryant 6, Derek Fisher 5, Shaquille O'Neal 4; Trail Blazers--Scottie Pippen 6, Rasheed Wallace 5, Bonzi Wells and Derek Anderson 4.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--Samaki Walker 4, Rick Fox 3; Trail Blazers--Wallace and Pippen 5.


Second Quarter

Highlight reel: With the Lakers finally showing some life, Fox cut to the basket and Robert Horry slipped him the ball on a textbook backdoor play for a basket and a 46-39 lead late in the quarter. It's the most eye-catching play during a 16-4 Laker run to end the half, although it probably will be overlooked in every TV highlight package. No flash, all substance. It's a sign of the many ways the versatile Lakers can subdue an opponent. They don't always need Bryant's flair or O'Neal's thunder to win.

Not in the box score: The Lakers' resilience can't be measured by statistics. They excelled in the quarter at taking the Trail Blazers' best shots and moving forward without missing a beat. They looked poised and that's why they held a nine-point lead.

Winning numbers: O'Neal had 10 points, five rebounds and six assists by halftime.

Wrong number: Trail Blazer guard Damon Stoudamire played only seven minutes by halftime and contributed nothing of note, a grim reminder of his team's lack of offensive depth.

Leading scorers: Lakers--Bryant 8, O'Neal 6, Horry and Devean George 5; Trail Blazers--Steve Kerr 7, Pippen, Wallace and Anderson 4.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal 4, Fisher 2 ; Trail Blazers--Dale Davis 4, Pippen 3 .


Third Quarter

Highlight reel: The most important lap of a mile run is the third. The most important quarter of a basketball game isn't always the third, but often it sets the tone for what's to come. The Lakers lost their lead, trailed, 59-53, after an 18-3 Trail Blazer run and looked as if they had no interest in ending this thing here and now. Wallace's driving dunk followed by Wells' slam got the Trail Blazers and the sellout crowd at the Rose Garden going at long last. Stoudamire even responded with a short-range jumper and a three-pointer.

Not in the box score: Momentum is often fleeting in the NBA, but the Lakers took it to extremes. They looked content to start the second half, and instead of pressing ahead, building a lead that might have broken the Trail Blazers' spirit, the Lakers' poor play inspired Portland into perhaps its best quarter of the series.

Winning number: The Trail Blazers forced the Lakers to miss their first 10 shots.

Wrong number: The Trail Blazers should have done better than merely a tie score after such an impressive start to the quarter.

Leading scorers: Lakers--Fox 6, Bryant 5, Fisher 3; Trail Blazers--Pippen 7, Stoudamire, Wallace and Wells 6.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--Horry 3; Trail Blazers--Wells and Wallace 3.


Fourth Quarter

Highlight reel: Bryant dribbled into a double-team of Ruben Patterson and Pippen. Instead of forcing a shot over them, Bryant spied an open Horry beyond the three-point arc in the right corner. Bryant passed to Horry and Horry stuck a dagger into the hearts of the Trail Blazers, making the go-ahead three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining. At the other end, Horry intercepted Pippen's atrocious inbounds pass, which was intended for Wallace. The Lakers would have been in trouble had the pass connected because Fisher was forced into a switch on Wallace.

Not in the box score: A reason for Pippen's blooper with the game on the line. Moments earlier, he missed the second of two free throws, setting up Horry's go-ahead three-pointer. He capped that with a horrid throw-in. It's the final example of why the Trail Blazers cannot defeat the Lakers in the postseason.

Winning number: The Lakers have won seven consecutive playoff games over the Trail Blazers, sweeping them in the first round the last two seasons.

Wrong numbers: Davis has fouled out three times and been ejected twice in five playoff games for the Trail Blazers against the Lakers.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 8, Bryant and Fox 6; Trail Blazers--Wells 9, Wallace 5, Anderson 4.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal 5, Horry 2; Trail Blazers--Wallace 3, Wells 2.







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