L.A. Lakers 95, Portland 87
LOS ANGELES, April 21 (Ticker) --
The Los Angeles Lakers began pursuit
of their third straight NBA title with a familiar formula --
plenty of Kobe Bryant
and Shaquille O'Neal
, solid defense and a
win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Bryant scored 34 points and O'Neal added 25 as the Lakers
methodically turned back the Trail Blazers, 95-87, in Game One
of their Western Conference first-round series.
In winning the title the last two seasons, the Lakers have
eliminated the Blazers, gaining the upper hand in a heated
rivalry. They won in seven games in the 2000 conference finals
and swept last year's first-round series.
Bryant did not shoot particularly well, making just 10-of-28
from the field. But he dominated for extended stretches and
added seven rebounds and three blocks.
NBA TV highlights from|
Kobe Bryant uses his left while practically doing everything right.
"It took a while for us to get adjusted to what we had to do, to
get in rhythm and know how to get them under control somewhat,"
O'Neal was his usual unstoppable self. He made 10-of-17 shots
and pulled down nine rebounds, fouling out overmatched Blazers
center Dale Davis.
"They were doubling and tripling me," O'Neal said. "We just
have to move the ball and other guys just have to step up and
make shots, and just take the high-percentage shots."
Bryant and O'Neal helped the Lakers hold the Blazers to under 37
percent shooting (30-of-82). Los Angeles tightened up its
defense in the third quarter, when it held Portland to 18 points
and took the lead for good.
"In the second half, we started to gain an edge," Lakers coach
Phil Jackson said. "We'd had trouble defending them until the
start of the second half."
"Our defense took over in the third quarter," Bryant said. "We
found the keys to their rhythm."
The Lakers have won 17 of their last 18 playoff games. Four of
those have come against Portland, which will try to get even in
Game Two of the best-of-five series here on Thursday.
"We can match up with these guys," Portland's Ruben Patterson
said. "They were just more aggressive on us in the second
"(I'm) a little dissatisfied in terms of the way we took some
quick shots in the offense, particularly in the second half,"
Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Rasheed Wallace had 25 points and 14 rebounds for Portland,
which was within one point early in the fourth quarter but could
not get over the hump.
A three-point play by Derek Anderson, who scored 22 points off
the bench, made it 68-67. Derek Fisher answered with a
three-point play to trigger a 14-3 run.
O'Neal had consecutive hoops and Rick Fox hit a 3-pointer before
Bryant nearly faked Scottie Pippen off his feet and buried a
22-footer for an 82-70 lead with 8:05 left.
A 3-pointer by Pippen made it 82-75 and Bryant flipped in a
driving finger roll. A 3-pointer by Wallace made 84-78 and
Bryant threw in a reverse layup while drawing a foul. His free
throw opened a nine-point lead with 5:07 to go and the Blazers
got no closer than five points thereafter.
Bryant's driving layup early in the third period gave LA a 52-50
lead and began a 9-0 burst. He added four free throws around a
three-point play by O'Neal.
"There's a reason they are the world champs," Cheeks said.
"They stepped up in the second half. Offensive rebounds and
every little thing about their game was stepped up in the second
Fisher scored 12 points for the Lakers, who shot 43 percent
(32-of-75), including 8-of-20 from the arc. Ruben Patterson
scored 13 points and Pippen added 11 for the Blazers.
The Lakers were sputtering late in the first quarter when
Patterson, a former Laker and self-proclaimed "Kobe-stopper,"
entered the game. Bryant immediately scored Los Angeles' last
eight points of the period, cutting the deficit to 23-19.
Bryant added 10 more in the second quarter, helping the Lakers
grab a 46-44 halftime lead.