LOS ANGELES, June 7 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal
is going back home to New Jersey. The Nets are going back to the drawing board.
O'Neal again overwhelmed the Nets with 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists as the Los Angeles Lakers took command of the NBA Finals with a front-running 106-83 victory.
Whatever adjustments Nets coach Byron Scott made over the last two days, they had absolutely no effect. O'Neal was even better than he was in Game 1, when he had 36 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Just two assists shy of a triple-double, Shaquille O'Neal gave the Lakers plenty to shout about in Game 2.|
"I'm just going to continue to take the high-percentage shot," O'Neal said. "We are used to every type of defense. Whatever type of defense they throw at us, we'll be ready."
"He's a monster. That's all I can say about him," said Scott, who still seemed reluctant to aggressively double-team O'Neal.
This time, the 7-1, 350-pound O'Neal flashed some finesse with his usual force. In addition to his nine dunks, he was 12-of-14 from the line and looked almost nimble on his arthritic big toe.
"He's showing that he can do it all now," Nets guard Jason Kidd said. "There's no more Hack-a-Shaq because now he's going to the line and knocking both of them down."
"He's seemed to gather energy during the playoffs," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That's been the remarkable part of it, that he's energized by the playoffs. This was his show."
It could be more of the same in Game 3 on Sunday at Continental Airlines Arena, which is right up the New Jersey Turnpike from Newark, where O'Neal was born and spent his early years.
"I'm going to go see my father's father and I'm going to see my great grandmother," he said. "Chill out, eat some macaroni and cheese and fried chicken and just hang out.
"I'm sure they're New Jersey fans (at the arena) and I'm sure I'll get booed and all that but I've been on a mission and I want to take care of business. Nothing else really matters."
Scott has two more days to come up with some sort of plan to prevent O'Neal from turning this series into a harrowing homecoming.
"I don't know what to really do against Shaq right now," Scott said.
O'Neal made 14-of-23 shots and flashed more of his underrated all-around skills. He finished off a couple of fast breaks, dropped a beautiful no-look, back-door pass to Brian Shaw in the second quarter and protected the paint well.
"I've always been the type to try to keep my teammates involved," O'Neal said. "I was going there pretty good. I guess they tried to double and triple(-team) and B-Shaw was close to the basket. I had to put a little mustard on it."
Through the first three quarters, O'Neal annihilated Nets centers Todd MacCulloch, Aaron Williams and Jason Collins for 36 points, going through them more than around them.
And when the cold-shooting Nets finally put together a flurry of three-pointers early in the fourth quarter, O'Neal returned and quickly restored order. He dunked and sank two free throws, starting a 23-6 run that buried the Nets.
"You can't do nothing with him," teammate Kobe Bryant said. "He's just going to demoralize the team. (They're) pretty much gonna have to deal with that."
It was the fifth career 40-point Finals game for O'Neal. He had three against Indiana two years ago and another in the opener last year vs. Philadelphia.
"As you know, this is not a fluke," Lakers forward Rick Fox said. "This is something he does at this time of year. It's a big stage. The world is watching. He's a two-time MVP in this round, right now going for a third one."
Bryant scored 24 points and Derek Fisher had 10 of his 12 in the final seven minutes for the Lakers, who never trailed and found the killer instinct that had been missing in Game One. They made four straight three-pointers to end the game.
Kerry Kittles scored 23 points and Kidd added 17 -- all in the second half -- for the Nets, who shot under 35 percent (30-of-86). New Jersey has held the lead for less than a minute in the series.
"We're getting the shots that we normally get in the regular season, shots that we've been getting throughout the playoffs," Scott said. "We're just missing them right now."
The prime culprit was reserve guard Lucious Harris, who missed all nine of his shots. Starting forwards Kenyon Martin and
Keith Van Horn combined for 15 points on just 5-of-17 shooting.
Only two teams have erased a 2-0 deficit to win the Finals. Since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1985, the home team never has won the middle three games.
"I know that no team has ever done this and won all three (home) games, but that's what we're faced with," Scott said. "That's what we're up against."
The Nets didn't show any nerves but still made just 6-of-25 shots in the first quarter. However, they looked to run and attack the basket and trailed, 27-21, after one period.
They still didn't have any answers for O'Neal, who made 10-of-13 shots in the first half, including six dunks. Two came on fast breaks, another off a sideline inbounds pass from Fox and yet another off a lob from Shaw, giving the Lakers a 44-33 lead with 3:52 left.
"It seems like he never has a bad night," MacCulloch said. "He is very big and very good, and the offense revolves around him; they look to get him the ball. He just kind of wears you down."
Even with their inability to slow down O'Neal, Kidd going scoreless and 31 percent shooting in the first half, the Nets trailed just 49-43 at halftime.
Kidd found his offense in the third quarter, scoring 11 points. But that did nothing to solve the problem of O'Neal. He quickly put MacCulloch on the bench with his fourth foul and added two more dunks, including one on a pretty pick-and-roll with Bryant that -- with a foul shot -- made it 61-52 with 6 1/2 minutes to go.
"Shaq is so dominant, he'll shoot 55 percent on an off night," Bryant said. "There's nothing you can do about that."
Three minutes later, O'Neal headfaked Williams, who landed on his back for a foul. O'Neal easily supported the 225-pound forward, then sank both free throws for a 70-57 advantage.
While New Jersey was missing nine straight shots, a lane turnaround by O'Neal and a three-pointer by Shaw built the bulge to 77-57 with 1:53 left.
A three-pointer by Kittles and two by Kidd highlighted an 11-0 burst that got the Nets back in it for the last time at 79-72 early in the final period before O'Neal returned.
He followed another three-pointer by Kittles with his final dunk, then added two free throws less than 40 seconds later for an 85-77 lead before turning it over to his teammates with sharp passes out of double-teams. The biggest beneficiary was Fisher, who fueled the final run.
"At the end, they obviously did sink (onto the post) and we hit some threes, so we got them both ways," Jackson said.
Fox had 10 points and eight rebounds and Robert Horry added eight and 10 for the Lakers, who shot 50 percent (39-of-78), including 9-of-16 from the arc.