LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal got a kick out of the way a foreign journalist pronounced the word ''Goliath,'' playfully mocking the man by repeating the mispronunciation
''Goalie-eth. Goalie-eth,'' O'Neal said.
Goliath, aka the Los Angeles Lakers, certainly didn't sound or look the same Thursday, a day after David, better known as the Philadelphia 76ers, came away with an overtime victory in Game 1 to end the Lakers' 11-game postseason winning streak.
The 76ers now have the edge in the NBA Finals and the Lakers are dealing with the first Game 1 defeat of the Phil Jackson era.
''Now that we know what we're going up against we can adjust and get some of the other talk out of our system,'' O'Neal said. ''I think that's the best they can play, and we'll be a different team tomorrow.''
The shock of losing in Game 1 brought a new dynamic to a series that many thought would be a walkover.
There is now a tremendous amount of pressure on the Lakers to win Game 2 on Friday night before the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 5.
''We talked a lot this morning about finding ways to hold it together,'' Jackson said. ''It's about the team as a group and how we support each other, and that's what makes us good.''
This is the eighth playoff series the Lakers have played under Jackson but the first one in which they've lost Game 1. So instead of wondering how their opponent is going to adjust, the Lakers faced some unfamiliar scrutiny of their shortcomings -- O'Neal's poor free throw shooting, Kobe Bryant's decision making and Derek Fisher's goose egg in the box score.
The Sixers, meanwhile, were trying hang on to their underdog label.
''Out of the 100 percent of the people who thought we couldn't win, now probably 99 percent of those people still think we can't win again,'' said Allen Iverson, who led Philadelphia with 48 points Wednesday night. ''Everybody thinks we snuck one game and that's it, now we're going to roll over and die. Nobody respects us.''
Iverson said he heard the Staples Center crowd chanting ''SWEEP, SWEEP'' 15 minutes before tipoff and used it as motivation.
''For the first time all playoffs they felt they were in a war. Everything has been kind of easy for those guys. They're beating up on everybody, sweeping guys, while we've been going through wars every single game,'' Iverson said.
''I don't know if the guys they were playing against before were scared, but now they know they have to come with their A-plus game every night. If not, we're going to have a chance to win.''
Oddly, the very same oddsmakers who made the Lakers 11 1/2-point favorites for Game 1 have made them an 11-point favorite for Game 2.
Jackson said the Lakers would take away some of the ballhandling chores from Bryant and give them to Fisher and Tyronn Lue, thereby allowing Bryant to devote more of his energy to scoring.
Bryant shot just 7-for-22 and had 15 points in becoming the latest star to learn than Aaron McKie isn't just a strong sixth man, he's also a great defender. McKie has guarded Bryant, Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Jalen Rose and Reggie Miller during the playoffs.
Jackson said the Lakers need O'Neal to shoot better from the free throw line, where he was just 10-for-22 in Game 1 -- including 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
''That game, if you look at the stat sheet, was won by us in almost every category but that one,'' Jackson said.
O'Neal scored 44 points, 14 of which came in the final six minutes of the third quarter after Dikembe Mutombo sat down with three fouls. Mutombo played O'Neal straight-up for most of the night as Philadelphia opted not to send a second defender. Most NBA teams routinely double- and triple-team O'Neal.
''I think I did a great job,'' Mutombo said. ''If there's a little adjustment I have to make, that would be between my coach and me and we have to work on that.''
Brown's decision to keep Mutombo on the bench would have been second-guessed much more if Philadelphia had lost. The Lakers cut a 15-point deficit to two points while Mutombo sat.
Brown began his news conference Thursday by proudly announcing the birth of his second grandchild, a baby girl named Mason Margaret Murr, while Iverson made it a point to let the room know it was his 26th birthday.
The 76ers are now trying to become just the third team to win Games 1 and 2 on the road since the NBA adopted a 2-3-2 format for the finals in 1985. The Houston Rockets did it against Orlando in 1995; the Chicago Bulls did it against Phoenix two years earlier.
Only two teams in NBA history have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the championship. In 1977, the Portland Trail Blazers lost two road games in Philadelphia and then won the next four, and 1968-69 Boston Celtics lost twice in Los Angeles before defeating the Lakers in seven games.
''We looked to be the team that could accomplish something like a 15-0 run in the playoffs,'' Lakers forward Rick Fox said. ''It was a nice goal to have, but it wasn't a realistic goal when you look at the way Philly played yesterday. They are a team that is not here to go away, as you heard Allen say.''
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us