Lakers respond; take Game 2


LOS ANGELES, AP

Rick Fox wore a look of disbelief as he considered the absurd concept of a quadruple-double in the NBA Finals. Shaquille O’Neal almost made it happen. “Can you believe that, nearly a quadruple-double?” Fox wondered, shaking his head. “Wow!” Wow, indeed. And the Los Angeles Lakers needed nearly every one of O’Neal’s 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocked shots to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 98-89 on Friday night to even the finals 1-1. So the 76ers got a split in Los Angeles as they go home to host the next three games, starting Sunday night. Had they made some free throws in the fourth quarter, when they went 6-for-16, the 76ers might have taken a 2-0 lead home. “Yeah, I think this was a must win,” said O’Neal, whose eight blocks tied the finals record held by Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. “Now, we just need to go to their place and get one or two games. I think we can do that.” The Lakers appeared safely ahead at 86-73 when O’Neal picked up his fifth foul and took a seat with 608 remaining. Then things got a little dicey, and O’Neal spent barely a minute on the bench before being rushed back into the game. For a while, it didn’t do much good. Six points by Eric Snow and four by Dikembe Mutombo sparked a 13-3 76ers run, cutting the Lakers’ lead to three points with plenty of time left. Then came the biggest basket of the game, Derek Fisher’s 3-pointer from the top of the key off O’Neal’s ninth assist with 2:09 remaining. The outcome wasn’t in doubt after that. “He’s a great post passer,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We knew that if they’re going to play that kind of pressure up against the bodies, trying to body the ball, body the passer, once the pass is released, we’re going to have cutters available, because that’s part of what you give up.” Philadelphia coach Larry Brown called O’Neal’s final assist the most important play of the game. “I told my team we could have won that game,” Brown said. “We had chances to win that game.” O’Neal and the Lakers’ backcourt made sure they didn’t. Kobe Bryant, held to 15 points in a 107-101 overtime loss in Game 1, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. And Fisher, held scoreless in the opener and taken apart by Allen Iverson on the defensive end, scored 14 points and harassed the MVP into a 10-for-29 shooting performance. “Did he play me well? Man, you can’t take nothing away from Fish,” said Iverson, who finished with 23 points after scoring 44 or more in his three previous games. “I think tonight I was more active,” Fisher said. “He made some tough shots in Wednesday’s game, which he is capable of doing. Some of the looks at the basket just didn’t fall for him.” Iverson appeared frustrated at times, and at one point late in the third quarter, he slapped Fisher’s hand away when the two were far from the action. Iverson left the game with 19 seconds to go and spent the rest of the time yelling at the Lakers, mainly Bryant. “With Allen, he’s doing whatever he can to inspire his team and fire them up,” Bryant said. “But I really don’t care. We’re here, we’re the world champions, and no matter how inspired your team may be, the championship has to come through the city of Los Angeles.” When asked about what happened, Iverson replied: “Ask him. It’s basketball, man. I mean, come on, man, we’re just talking. Just basketball. We’re out there having fun.” Mutombo had 16 points and 13 rebounds; Aaron McKie scored 14 points; reserve Todd MacCulloch added a career playoff-high 13; and Snow had 12 for the 76ers. The Lakers went ahead for good with five minutes left in the third quarter on a dunk by Robert Horry off an assist from O’Neal, snapping a 61-61 tie and triggering a 16-6 run to finish the period. “We played two good quarters in the first game and three in this one,” Horry said. “We need to play four.” Fisher’s steal and breakaway dunk and 3-pointer highlighted the spurt, and then his tight defense contributed to an air ball by Iverson on a 3-point attempt as the quarter ended. The Lakers didn’t go inside much in the first 18 minutes, and trailed 40-33 before changing their strategy. Ten points by O’Neal helped them outscore the 76ers 16-7 during the remainder of the half for a 49-47 lead. Iverson finally attempted his first free throws with 1001 left in the game, but missed both. He also missed his final pair with 3:04 left when two makes could have cut the Lakers’ lead to three. Iverson made 135 of 169 foul shots (79.9 percent) in his previous 18 playoff games this spring.

Jackson, Fox trim their hair Lakers coach Phil Jackson had his hair trimmed Friday in what’s become a pre-game ritual during the playoffs. Stylist Billy Yamaguchi travels to Los Angeles from his salon in Ojai to snip Jackson’s hair prior to every home playoff game. The Lakers won their first 11 playoff games. But Yamaguchi couldn’t get to Los Angeles on Wednesday night, and the Lakers lost in overtime to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “I don’t know if you can tell the difference, but I do feel lighter,” Jackson said before Game 2 on Friday night. Yamaguchi gave Jackson a makeover based on the principles of Feng Shui. He replaced Jackson’s scruffy beard with a small soul patch under the coach’s lower lip, and cut Jackson’s wavy gray hair. Yamaguchi calls it the Zen gladiator look. Meanwhile, Lakers forward Rick Fox finally did something about his unruly mop of black hair, which he had vowed not to cut until the Lakers lost. Fox had one inch trimmed off, although it was hard to tell because of the heavy styling product that made his locks look wet. “He was going to cut more, but he said, ‘We’ve only lost the battle, not the war,”’ Lakers spokesman John Black said. Fox said he’d talk about his hair after the game.