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Lakers Are About to Wrap Up This Party

June 10, 2002|Mark Heisler

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Well, that wasn't much fun while it lasted, not around here, anyway.

Oh, it's not over yet?

The New Jersey Nets played their hearts out but all they got for their sweat and tears Sunday night was a termination notice, served up by the Lakers in the form of a come-from-behind, 106-103 victory.

The Lakers lead the NBA Finals, 3-0, and the Nets are not doubting who the eventual winner will be and which is the better team.

"You guys were treated to seeing three of the best players in the world play tonight," Net Coach Byron Scott said in the interview room. "Unfortunately, they had two of them. Kobe [Bryant] hit some big shots and Shaq [O'Neal] was Shaq....

"Two of their players are [in] the top five in the league. We've got one guy, Jason [Kidd], who's the best at his position, no doubt about that and one of the best players in the league also. We've got a bunch of young guys that we feel are going to be up there one day in Kenyon [Martin] and Keith [Van Horn]. We feel Richard Jefferson's going to be fantastic.

"All this right now for our team is a learning experience. That's all it is. I thought we took a giant step tonight as far as competing against the best. They [Lakers] are the best."

OK, the Laker parade will start at noon and proceed to Staples Center, where Phil Jackson will do his rap emcee imitation--oh, the series isn't over yet?

Well, it feels like it is.

Not that everyone around here wasn't confident the Nets could dig their way out of their 2-0 hole, but a headline in Sunday's New York Times read:

"Resistance Is Futile for the Nets."

Wrote the New York Post's Pete Vecsey: "No, the Nets are not mathematically dead, just clinically."

Wrote Mike Lupica of the New York Daily news: "This is what happens when Cinderella runs into the Big Fella."

Wrote Lisa Olson of the Daily News: "Laker parade next Friday."

Under the circumstances, it was remarkable the Nets even showed up, but one thing you have to give them--they're a brave little crew. Too little to deal with Shaq but brave enough to keep trying.

After two games of trying to single cover O'Neal, a mistake no West team would make, Scott finally tried double-teaming Sunday. Not that the Lakers were getting impatient, but before the game, Jackson noted he thought the Nets "have adjustments to make ... to try and stop Shaquille in a concerted team way." And he added: "Until that time, our [shooting] percentages are great."

Predictably, since the Nets hadn't double-teamed all season, they didn't do it well. They came softly and late, and Shaq had his usual 21 points by halftime, by which time the Lakers had taken their usual double-figure lead.

This time, however, the Nets, who'd trailed by 23 points in each of the first two games, were never down by more than 14.

Then, trailing, 78-70, late in the third quarter, the Nets went on a blistering 14-0 run, with Kidd scoring six of the points and assisting on two more baskets.

So the Lakers just came from seven points behind in the last 6 minutes 44 seconds with a notable contribution from Devean George, who'd been struggling all postseason and was so discouraged after missing an open 17-footer in the third quarter, O'Neal, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher gathered around him to pump him up.

"We gave it everything we had tonight," Martin said glumly. "You've got to tip your hat to them. They didn't crack under pressure. We came out, we played the ballgame we wanted to. Just couldn't get it."

So much for matchup of the Nets' dreams, if not the NBA's dream matchup.

While persevering through a difficult East finals against the Boston Celtics, the Nets concluded they had become a team of destiny. However, as they are now finding out, there are a lot of possible destinies and theirs was to get run over by the bigger, better and more experienced Lakers.

This just in from he NBA Finals: It's now Dynasty 3, Destiny 0.

Kidd, sitting in the interview room with his 3-year-old son, T.J., in his lap, was asked if the Nets hadn't blown an opportunity.

"It's not a blown opportunity, you know," he said. "The better team won tonight."

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