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It Pays to Be Aggressive

June 02, 2002|LONNIE WHITE

This year's Western Conference finals would rank among the top playoff matchups in NBA history if there hadn't been so much whining about the officiating.

Every time the Lakers have won, the Sacramento Kings have cried about what they claim is favorable treatment given to Shaquille O'Neal and the two-time defending NBA champions.

After each Sacramento victory, the Lakers have complained about the uneven number of fouls called on them compared to the Kings.

By now, the Lakers and Kings should understand that whichever team plays more aggressively will have an edge in today's Game 7 at Arco Arena.

Although the Lakers depend on O'Neal's power in the paint to run their offense, they haven't always been the aggressors in the series. The Kings took it to the Lakers early in Game 2, 3 and 4.

Assuming both teams start off ready to play, the team that has made the best adjustments after facing each other six times over the last two weeks will have the edge.

A breakdown of Game 7:

KINGS' MOVE--One overlooked aspect of the series has been Doug Christie's inability to provide consistent offense. Christie has not created turnovers the way he did during the regular season and he has a tendency to force things on offense when Kobe Bryant gets his game going.

If the Lakers slow down Mike Bibby as they did Friday, Sacramento needs Christie to start producing offensively. Because the Kings haven't been getting much production from their shooting guard position with Christie, Bobby Jackson or Peja Stojakovic, Los Angeles hasn't suffered despite Derek Fisher's lack of scoring.

Coach Rick Adelman has to start thinking about using Lawrence Funderburke. He got a chance to play late in Game 6 and made an impact.

LAKERS' MOVE--Coach Phil Jackson's decision to throw fresh bodies at Bibby and turn up the heat for three quarters before turning to Bryant worked to perfection Friday. Fisher did not contribute much offense, but he worked well with Lindsey Hunter in making it difficult for Bibby to bring the ball up the court. By the time Bryant got on Bibby, the King point guard was frustrated.

The Lakers may still be attempting too many three-point shots, but at least Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Devean George tried more short-range shots in Game 6. This type of movement is needed against the Kings, who gamble a lot on defense. Samaki Walker did not have much of an impact Friday, playing only four minutes. If his nagging knee injury has become more of a problem, Jackson might have to give more playing time to Slava Medvedenko.

The Lakers must hit the defensive boards better than they did in Game 6. With Chris Webber leading the way with four, the Kings had a 14-6 edge in offensive rebounds. Horry and Fox have to help out more because the Lakers can't afford to keep giving Sacramento added possessions.

KEY POINT--The most important statistic will be free throws attempted. Before Game 6, the Kings had gone to the line nearly 40 times more than the Lakers, but Friday things were reversed. With O'Neal and Bryant staying out of foul trouble, the Lakers' attacking style was the main reason they made 16 more free throws than Sacramento.

The Lakers won Game 6 on the line, with 27 free throws in the fourth quarter. But they earned this edge with how they played during the first three quarters. Whichever team approaches today's game like this, instead of waiting for the final 12 minutes, will win the series. If the Lakers play Game 7 the way they've played the previous two games, the Kings' season will end tonight.



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