PHILADELPHIA -- Remember those all-too-powerful Los Angeles Lakers who steamrolled their way through the West? They finally arrived at the NBA Finals.
Shaquille O'Neal had 34 points and 14 rebounds and Kobe Bryant came within one assist of a triple-double Wednesday night as the Lakers looked all but unbeatable in defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 100-86 to move within one victory of repeating as champions.
In their most impressive game of the series, the Lakers held a double-digit lead for almost the entire second half as they tied the NBA record with their seventh consecutive playoff road victory.
If the Lakers can close out the series Friday night in Game 5, they will finish with the best postseason run in NBA history -- 15-1. They already have the 76ers in dire straits, as no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
''I haven't been stopped since age 5,'' said O'Neal, who scored almost at will when he was single-teamed and found teammates for several key open shots when the Sixers double-teamed him.
''We still haven't put together a great game like we did in the first three series, but we're doing enough to win. And that's what it's all about -- winning,'' O'Neal said. ''In a perfect world we'd be talking about winning the whole thing right now, but we let Game 1 slip away.''
Bryant finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and an assortment of the Lakers' role players made big shots. The Lakers had 10 3-pointers, including three by Robert Horry, and used Derek Fisher and Tyronn Lue to hold Allen Iverson in check once again.
Iverson left the game with a minute-and-a-half left after scoring 35 points -- many of which came in the fourth quarter when the 76ers made one last push but came up way short.
''We've got to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to contain that type of player,'' Iverson said. ''That team starts with Shaquille O'Neal and ends with Shaquille O'Neal.''
The 76ers hurt themselves by missing 11 free throws, which was an even bigger factor considering Los Angeles missed 14. They appeared tired during the game, as their shots often came up short and they couldn't keep the Lakers off the offensive boards.
Aside from the free throws, the Lakers dominated this game much like they did during the first three rounds of the postseason when they went 11-0 against Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio.
''I told y'all I was going to come back with a vengeance,'' said O'Neal, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds by halftime as the Lakers opened a 14-point lead.
The no-quit 76ers made a move early in the fourth, getting six straight points from Iverson in an 11-0 run that cut their deficit to 77-70. But O'Neal powered past Dikembe Mutombo for a dunk, outjumped him for a defensive rebound and then passed out of a double-team for a wide-open 3-pointer by Brian Shaw.
Lue and Horry followed with 3s to get the lead back to 17 with 6 1/2 minutes left, and from there it was only a matter of running out the clock.
''We're getting into a rhythm and starting to get our flow back, and no matter what kind of a run the Sixers throw at us we're going to bounce back,'' Bryant said.
Fisher added 10 points, Horry had nine and Ron Harper eight.
Iverson got his points on 12-for-30 shooting from the field, and Mutombo added 19 points and nine rebounds. Aaron McKie shot just 1-for-9 and the Sixers had just 15 assists on their 33 field goals -- a telling sign that they were not playing good team ball.
''When you consider the fact that we did make a run and they didn't panic but made good plays, that's why they're a championship team,'' Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said.
O'Neal grabbed five offensive rebounds in the first quarter and the Lakers had nine second-chance points in taking a 22-14 lead. O'Neal's first dunk came off an offensive rebound as he caught Mutombo across the jaw with an elbow while turning toward the basket.
The Sixers opened the second quarter with a full-court press that gave the Lakers trouble and allowed Philadelphia to pull within 26-22, but they then switched their defensive attention to double-teaming O'Neal and the results were not good.
Harper hit a backdoor layup off a pass from O'Neal and then nailed a 3-pointer from the corner, and Horry and Lue also hit 3s in a 20-7 run that gave Los Angeles a 46-29 lead.
O'Neal missed two from the line with 5.3 seconds left in the second quarter but rebounded his own miss and scored for a 51-37 halftime lead.
Early in the third quarter, O'Neal grabbed three offensive rebounds on one possession and converted two foul shots for a 58-42 lead. Bryant went around Raja Bell for a three-point play with 3:47 left in the third to give the Lakers their first 20-point lead, 68-48, and Fisher followed with a steal leading to a wide-open dunk by Bryant just seconds later.
O'Neal scored six points on pretty moves in the lane over the rest of the quarter to help the Lakers take a 77-59 lead into the fourth.
''Well, I had an inkling we were going to play a game like that tonight,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ''I felt we had a better game in us than we played the other night.''
Notes: Sixers forward George Lynch, out since May 13 with a fractured left foot, checked in with 3:58 remaining in the first quarter and received a loud ovation. He finished with no points and two rebounds in eight minutes. ... Bryant, quickly becoming the designated villain to Sixers fans, was booed even louder than he was in Game 3. ... Lakers reserve Mark Madsen saw his first playing time of the series and blocked a shot by Matt Geiger just seconds after entering the game.
Peninsula Clarion © 2015. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us