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No Trouble of Any Kind for O'Neal

June 09, 2002|Tim Brown

After two games of the NBA Finals, one of the more telling developments is that Shaquille O'Neal has stayed in them.

He played much of the Western Conference finals in foul trouble or on the brink of it, because the Sacramento King centers had a defensive reputation and because O'Neal was vulnerable to offensive fouls and penetrating guards.

He hasn't had the same issues against the New Jersey Nets, though Laker Coach Phil Jackson often marvels at how differently O'Neal is officiated on the road than at Staples Center, and the next two games--at least--will be played at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.

"I've been pacing myself defensively, just picking what shots to go after," O'Neal said. "Just not worrying about it. I think when I worry about it, that's when I get into foul trouble. Just going and playing my game. Each set of officials is going to call a game different, but I'm not going to waste my time figuring out who's calling the game and how they call it, doing all this stuff. It just takes up too much time. I just want to go out and play and whatever happens, happens."

In 81 minutes of the Finals, O'Neal has been called for four fouls. The Shaq Pack--Todd MacCulloch, Aaron Williams and Jason Collins--has accumulated 22 fouls in 99 minutes. O'Neal's advantage, of course, is that he doesn't have to defend himself, and none of the Net centers is offensively aggressive.

It is a rout in the middle. En route to a 2-0 series lead, O'Neal has 76 points, 28 rebounds and nine assists. His Net counterparts have 31 points, 23 rebounds and two assists.


No one is better at finding O'Neal in the post than Brian Shaw, and to that end he played 22 minutes in Game 2, after playing 11 in Game 1.

From the conference finals, Lindsey Hunter has lost time. Derek Fisher, after playing 36 minutes in Game 1, played 29 in Game 2.


After a long, miserable trip through the first three rounds, Fisher again has made an end-to-end impact for the Lakers.

He is eight for 16 from the field, including three for five from the arc, and is averaging 12.5 points. Also, he's one of the reasons Jason Kidd has been unable to push the Nets into their fastbreak offense or find his scoring touch. Kidd is 17 for 43 from the field.

A terrible three-point shooting team for much of the postseason (35.6% against Portland, 33.8% against San Antonio and 27.6% against Sacramento) and again in Game 1 of the Finals (1 for 10), the Lakers made nine of 16 three-point shots in Game 2. Kobe Bryant, shooting 32.7% from the arc in 16 previous playoff games, made three of three, two well after the outcome was decided.

"Felt like I had my radar on," Bryant said. "Felt good."


Rick Fox was among those whose wave to the Staples Center crowd Friday night had a farewell look to it, though Fox said afterward he hadn't intended that impression.

"This is not over," he said. "That team, at every turn, seems to find its way back in the game."

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