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

Sacramento Vs. Lakers/ Game 6 Report



Highlight reel: The game begins and the bricks fly. Neither team can shoot to start Game 6. The pressure was squarely on the Lakers' shoulders since they needed a victory or would be on vacation today. The Kings were loose before the game, displaying hardly any nervous energy in their locker room. So what gives? Why would the Lakers come out and miss 10 of their first 15 shots? Why would the Kings miss 10 of their first 13? Clearly, neither team was at its best in the early minutes. The Lakers had to be better, but they were not--a bad omen to start their most important game of the season.

Not in the box score: The Shaq Factor. It was evident early that Shaquille O'Neal was prepared to carry the Lakers into a Game 7 on his shoulders if needed. He ran harder than he had since the clinching Game 5 against the San Antonio Spurs, consistently beating both Vlade Divac and Chris Webber up and down the floor.

Winning numbers: The Lakers closed this quarter by making six of eight shots.

Wrong number: The Kings' 34.8% shooting.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 11, Kobe Bryant 9; Kings--Webber 10, Mike Bibby 7.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal and Bryant 5; Kings--Divac 7, Scot Pollard 2.



Highlight reel: The Kings closed the quarter with three-point baskets from Doug Christie and Divac (at the buzzer), taking the lead from the Lakers in the last 39 seconds. What was most disturbing about the Kings' shots, if you were a Laker or a Laker fan, was that no one in a gold uniform was in the same zip code as Christie and Divac. At this stage, the Lakers have to defend better than they did in the closing seconds. After all, their season and their status as a budding dynasty was on the line in Game 6.

Not in the box score: A sense of desperation on the Kings' part. Although they were shooting poorly, they never panicked, never went away from the style of play that had them on the brink of eliminating the two-time defending champion Lakers. They plugged away and took a five-point lead by halftime. There was a sense that the Kings would get better, smoothing out the rough edges to their game in the second half.

Winning numbers: The Kings' 16-8 rebounding edge.

Wrong numbers: Bibby's 0-for-4 shooting.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 10, Rick Fox 5; Kings--Divac 9, Hedo Turkoglu 7.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal, Bryant and Devean George 2; Kings--Divac 4.



Highlight reel: The stage was set for the Lakers' best basketball of the series. O'Neal was getting warmed up in easily his best game of the playoffs. Bryant moved better than at any time in the series. And yet the best the Lakers could do after three quarters was a tie. That didn't bode well for the fourth, but the Lakers were in better shape than if they had trailed. The Kings stuck to them like glue, making key baskets whenever it seemed the Lakers were about to pull away.

Not in the box score: Much of anything from Divac in this quarter. Strapped with fouls, he was a non-factor, failing to score or take a rebound. It made the tie score all the more remarkable since Divac has played O'Neal so tough throughout the series. With Divac on the bench, O'Neal was free to control the game. He had eight points and five rebounds in the quarter.

Winning numbers: The Lakers' nine-for-18 shooting and five-for-five free-throw shooting.

Wrong numbers: The Kings' eight-for-21 shooting.

Leading scorers: Lakers--Bryant 9, O'Neal 8; Kings--Bibby 10, Webber 4.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal 5; Kings--Webber 5, Christie 2.



Highlight reel: You knew there would be a Game 7 when the New Jersey Nets eliminated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. There was no way NBC would be allowed to go without a game Saturday or Sunday. Conspiracy theories aside, the Lakers had to do the right things down the stretch to subdue the Kings. Fouling out Divac and Pollard was perhaps the best result the Lakers could have hoped for. The Lakers' dominant play inside was the key. It's something they'll have to do Sunday if they hope to win on the Kings' home floor. They must take the ball to the basket and force the referees to blow the whistle.

Not in the box score: Once more into the Little House on the Prairie, where the Lakers played near-flawless basketball in Game 1, were so-so in Game 2 and strong again in Game 5. The Lakers must continue to get superb play from Bryant and O'Neal, muzzle Bibby and control the play near the basket.

Winning numbers: The Lakers' 21-for-27 free-throw shooting.

Wrong number: Four points; the best the Lakers could manage was a four-point margin of victory.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 12, Bryant 11; Kings--Webber 8, Bibby 6.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal 5, Bryant 3; Kings--Webber 5, Christie 2.

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