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NBA FINALS

Game 1 Report

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

June 06, 2002|JASON REID | Times Staff Writer

FIRST QUARTER

Highlight reel: It sure didn't seem like Game 1 of the NBA Finals, what with the Staples Center crowd relaxed and the New Jersey Nets overwhelmed. The opening quarter lacked the charged atmosphere typically associated with such events, and the Lakers and their fans welcomed the change of pace after an emotionally draining seven-game Western Conference finals against the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers played with purpose from the outset this time, quickly ending the Nets' hopes of catching the two-time defending champions with their guard down.

Not in the box score: How easily the Lakers breezed. They have not had many quarters like that in these playoffs, having usually been scrambling to overcome big early deficits or trying to hold off late charges. It almost seemed like 2001 again.

Winning numbers: Too many to fit here, but Shaquille O'Neal's five-for-seven shooting and no fouls were high on the long list.

Wrong numbers: Take your pick for the Nets: 27.3% from field (six for 22) and outrebounded, 17-10.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 10, Derek Fisher 9, Kobe Bryant 6; Nets--Kenyon Martin 6, Jason Kidd 4, Kerry Kittles 4.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--Rick Fox 4, Robert Horry 4; New Jersey--Keith Van Horn 3, Martin 2.

*

SECOND QUARTER

Highlight reel: The Nets, determined to at least keep the Lakers interested a while longer, rallied behind Kidd and center Todd MacCulloch, pulling to within 12 points at halftime after trailing by as many as 23. MacCulloch showed he planned to be more than a piece of furniture after getting pushed around by O'Neal in the first quarter, coming to life with six points (on three-of-five shooting) and three rebounds.

Not in the box score: How calm the Nets remain under Kidd's smooth floor guidance. It would have been easy for them to have crumbled under the weight of their poor shooting and O'Neal's fast start, but Kidd, who was considered the most valuable player by many this season, keeps them cool. Also, the Lakers were in a position to put the game away, but they seem to play at their best only when they feel threatened.

Winning numbers: Kidd's three-of-four shooting.

Wrong numbers: Van Horn's one-of-four shooting.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 6, Fox 4. Nets--Kidd 7, MacCulloch 6.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--Samaki Walker 5, O'Neal 3. Nets--MacCulloch 3, Richard Jefferson 3.

*

THIRD QUARTER

Highlight reel: Someone forgot to tell the Nets to give up after the first quarter. Their Game 1 jitters apparently gone, they outplayed the Lakers out of the locker room, suddenly making things not so comfortable for the Staples Center crowd. It was a familiar pattern for the Lakers, who have been out of practice with big leads. The Nets were quicker to every loose ball and were more active in general, with Kidd setting the tone by example. They pulled to within 60-56 on Kerry Kittles' three-pointer with 5:23 to play, but trailed by nine entering the fourth.

Not in the box score: How the crowd suddenly got into the game. Watching the Nets chip away at the Lakers' once-commanding lead prompted fans to stop chanting, "three-peat, three-peat," and focus on the moment. The Lakers took more interest in the Nets as well. However, that "Make some noise" recording wasn't the answer.

Winning numbers: Lakers' 12-of-14 free-throw shooting.

Wrong numbers: Martin's two-of-nine shooting. Not exactly a blue-light special for Kmart.

Leading scorers: Lakers--Bryant 11, O'Neal 6, Horry 5; Nets--Kidd 6, Martin 6, Van Horn 6.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--Horry 4; Nets--MacCulloch 4, Kidd 3.

*

FOURTH QUARTER

Highlight reel: No matter how much the Lakers or their fans hoped, the Nets simply wouldn't go away quietly, cutting the Lakers' lead to 84-81 on two free throws by Martin with 4:47 left. They continued to show that this series might not be as easy for the Lakers as some believe, matching the Lakers' intensity and giving them a lot to think about the rest of the series. In the end, the Lakers' talent and free-throw shooting in the quarter were too much for New Jersey to overcome.

Not in the box score: O'Neal's commanding presence. He had another monster game with 36 points and 16 rebounds, but the frustration he causes the opposition is almost as important. The Lakers went to him almost every opportunity down the stretch, then the Nets watched as O'Neal shot 16 free throws (making eight), fouling him repeatedly because they couldn't move him from near the basket. The Kings can definitely relate.

Winning numbers: The Lakers' 25 free throws (they made 15).

Wrong numbers: The Nets' shooting one for seven on three-pointers.

Leading scorers: Lakers--O'Neal 14, Fox 6; Nets--Martin 9, Kidd 6.

Leading rebounders: Lakers--O'Neal 9; Nets--Kidd 5.

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