LOS ANGELES, May 31 (Ticker) --
The irresistible force of Shaquille
forced a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals.
O'Neal manhandled his way to 41 points and 17 rebounds as the
two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers staved off
elimination with a 106-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings host Game 7 on Sunday night with a chance to
dethrone the Lakers, who improved to 3-0 in elimination games
during their hold on the title. The winner faces the New Jersey
Nets in the NBA Finals beginning Wednesday night.
Hampered by injuries all season, the 7-2, 350-pound O'Neal put
the hurt on the Kings. His best game of the 2002 postseason saw
him make 14-of-25 shots and 13-of-17 free throws, fouling out
Sacramento big men Vlade Divac
and Scot Pollard
Shaquille O'Neal goes in for one of many slam dunks against the Kings.|
Andrew D. Bernstein
"I'm not going to change my game," O'Neal said. "A couple of
games I tried to be cute, tried to stay out of foul trouble. I'm
just going to play aggressive and (they) call it how they call
it. But if they call it like they're supposed to call it, the
outcome will be the same like it was tonight. You've got to
foul me to stop me, period."
O'Neal scored 12 points in a tense fourth quarter, including a
nifty reverse layup with 52 seconds left -- his team's first
basket in nearly six minutes -- that gave Los Angeles a 101-98
"He said, `Come to me,'" Lakers forward Robert Horry
has not said that in a long time."
The Lakers showed their championship mettle, making 14-of-16
foul shots in the final three minutes. They needed just about
every one as the Kings continued to provide the toughest test
they have faced during their dynasty.
Even with O'Neal's heroics -- and 31 points from Kobe Bryant
the Lakers still held their breath as a bloodied Mike Bibby
launched a potential tying 3-pointer with five seconds left. He
missed, and the teams will play the first Game 7 of this
"That happens sometimes. You have to take the good with the
bad," said Bibby, who made just 7-of-20 shots. "I hope it's out
of me right now. We got one more game to play. It's do or die
"Going up to Arco (Arena) and playing Game 7, it's going to
be fun," Bryant said. "You know how their fans are. ... It's
going to be a huge challenge for us and we're really looking
forward to it."
Bryant helped O'Neal by grabbing 11 rebounds and making 11-of-11
free throws, including four in the final 20 seconds that kept
the Kings looking for the tying 3-pointer.
The Kings thought the Lakers got some help from the officials as
well. Los Angeles made 34-of-40 free throws while Sacramento
sank 18-of-25. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers hit 21-of-27
from the line while the Kings made 7-of-9.
"Our big guys get 20 fouls tonight and Shaq gets four? You tell
me how the game went," Adelman said. "It's just the way it is.
Obviously, they got the game called the way they wanted to get
"It's just the reality of the matter," Webber added. "I've
heard from some champions that to get to be a champion; you have
to go through this, so I was warned."
A driving layup by Hedo Turkoglu
pulled the Kings within 103-102
with 12 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, Bryant
elbowed Bibby to the nose and pushed him to the floor to receive
the pass before being fouled.
Between Bryant's free throws, the Kings called their last
timeout to stop the bleeding in Bibby's nose so their best
shooter could remain in the game. With gauze stuffed up his
nostril, he dribbled upcourt but missed the potential tying
"I told Mike I wouldn't forget my guard was on the floor,
bleeding," Webber said. "I will not forget that. I'm not going
to play dirty or anything like that. I might take 10 more jump
hooks or 10 more jumpers, but that will be in the back of my
mind." Webber had 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
Bibby scored 23 points and Divac added 12 and 12 rebounds for
Neither team led by more than seven points and the game was
tied, 75-75, entering the fourth quarter. O'Neal had two free
throws and a basket, fouling out Pollard in the process. Devean
added a free throw for a five-point lead.
O'Neal had a banker with 6:51 to go, keeping the lead at 88-83,
before the Kings came back. Divac returned and converted a
three-point play to give Sacramento a 90-89 edge with 4:38 to
After a layup by Bibby, Divac fouled out and Horry made two free
throws for a 92-92 tie. Two free throws by Bryant gave the
Lakers the lead for good at 95-94 with 1:55 left and Rick Fox
added two more 18 seconds later.
"I knew before the game I'd be out of it," Divac said. "He
(O'Neal) went out (on fouls) up there (in Sacramento). It had
to be the same down here."
Fox scored 11 points for LA. Turkoglu had 12 and Peja
and Bobby Jackson
added 10 each for Sacramento.