L.A. Lakers 72, Houston 71
LOS ANGELES, April 17 (Ticker) --
The Houston Rockets had the Los
Angeles Lakers right where they wanted them until Shaquille O'Neal overpowered Yao Ming.
NBA TV highlights from|
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Shaq's winning dunk
O'Neal's follow dunk over Yao with 17 seconds left allowed the
Lakers to escape with a 72-71 victory over the Rockets, who
squandered an opportunity to tilt the Western Conference
first-round series in their favor.
The matchup between the second-seeded Lakers and seventh-seeded
Rockets was billed as a showdown between O'Neal and Yao, who had
battled on relatively even terms over the last two seasons.
Their first postseason matchup was more of the same. Yao had
just 10 points and 11 rebounds but did not allow O'Neal to
dominate, limiting him to 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
The Lakers and Rockets both struggled offensively in Game 1.|
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Digging in with defense, the Rockets were clinging to a 71-70
lead as they trapped Kobe Bryant above the 3-point arc with the
shot clock running down. Bryant, who made just 4-of-19 shots,
fired an airball.
Under the basket, the 7-1, 340-pound O'Neal bodied the 7-5,
300-pound Yao out of the way, grabbed the miss and powered in a
dunk that drew Yao's sixth foul, bringing a roar from the
Staples Center crowd.
O'Neal missed the free throw, going just 4-of-14 from the line
and giving the Rockets a chance to win. After a series of
timeouts, Rockets All-Star guard Steve Francis penetrated and
found Jim Jackson wide open in the left corner.
But Jackson, who had made a 3-pointer from the same spot earlier
in the period, missed this time. O'Neal corralled his 17th
rebound as time expired.
The Rockets did everything they could to win. They never let
the home team get comfortable, limited the Lakers to 33 percent
(25-of-76) from the field and held a 51-41 advantage on the
Playing its first postseason game in five years, Houston hurt
itself with sloppy play, shooting 38 percent (29-of-76) and
committing 22 turnovers, including seven each by Francis and
backcourt mate Cuttino Mobley.
"It was pretty sloppy. It was a well contested game," said
Bryant, who scored 16 points. "In the playoffs, it doesn't
matter how pretty or how ugly it is as long as you win."
Game 2 is Monday at Los Angeles.