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NBA FINALS NEW JERSEY VS. LAKERS/ SERIES REPORT | LAKER
NOTES

Much-Needed Rest for a Weary Team

June 04, 2002|Tim Brown

The Lakers rested Monday after returning Sunday night to Los Angeles, and will practice today in El Segundo in preparation for the NBA Finals opener Wednesday night at Staples Center.

The down time was earned, considering how hard Phil Jackson pushed them in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Kobe Bryant played 52 minutes, Shaquille O'Neal played 51, Robert Horry played 49 and Rick Fox 48, 72 hours before Game 1 against the New Jersey Nets.

In the second half and the overtime period, Jackson used his bench for only nine minutes--four by Lindsey Hunter, two each by Slava Medvedenko and Devean George and one by Brian Shaw. Shaw's two points accounted for the only scoring from the reserves in the final 29 minutes. Conversely, Sacramento Coach Rick Adelman employed 36 bench minutes after halftime.

"Look at the stat sheet, all those guys played all those minutes," assistant coach Jim Cleamons said. "They needed the off day. Jersey's got to travel. So, I think we'll be fine and rested."

Asked about the "intestinal fortitude" required to play those minutes in such a close game with so much at stake, Fox smiled and said, "My intestines almost fell out. That's a lot of playing."

*

In two games against the Nets, the Lakers made 44.6% of their shots and 42.5% of their three-point tries.

O'Neal scored 40 points in his only game against them, and Bryant scored 33 in his only game against them. Derek Fisher averaged 15.0 points in two games.

*

In 15 playoff games, O'Neal is shooting 64.3% from the free-throw line and 51% from the field.

If he maintains both paces, it would be only the second postseason of his career in which he shot a higher percentage from the line than from the field.

*

Horry, on O'Neal's Games 6 and 7, in which he averaged 37.5 points and 15 rebounds: "That's why he's a mega-superstar. No telling how bad he's really hurting. He's been carrying us. All you can do is hang on to Superman's cape for the ride."

*

Laker assistant coach Frank Hamblen's early competition in Denver, where they're interviewing head coach candidates: Eddie Jordan, Tubby Smith, Del Harris, Donn Nelson, interim coach Mike Evans (who replaced Dan Issel) and Clyde Drexler.

It is likely that Hamblen, a friend of Nugget assistant general manager David Fredman, would interview after the playoffs.

"I'm happy with what I do," he said. "There should be a process, and I've never been one to politic about those things."

Hamblen has been a head coach once, when he took over for Harris midway through the 1991-92 season in Milwaukee.

*

These NBA Finals will be Mitch Richmond's first, in his 14th season. He has appeared in one of the Lakers' first 15 playoff games.

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