L.A. Lakers 98, Houston 84
LOS ANGELES, April 19 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal
and Gary Payton
subpar games for the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Houston
Rockets had little success stopping Kobe Bryant
and Karl Malone
Bryant scored 36 points and Malone had 17 for the Lakers, who
pulled away in the second half en route to a 98-84 victory over
the Rockets and a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference
Malone made 7-of-12 shots after going 3-of-14 and scoring seven
points in Game One.
NBA TV highlights from|
Kobe's twisting layup:
"I did try to be aggressive," Malone said. "I said going into
the game if they were going to leave me open, then I was going
to take those shots. It's just one of those things. You take
what the defense gives you."
O'Neal had just two points and three fouls in the first half and
finished with a playoff career-low seven points, while Payton
Kobe Bryant's aggressive play got him to the foul line 17 times.|
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
"I kind of had to turn my aggression down a little bit," said
O'Neal, who was 3-of-9 from the field and grabbed seven
rebounds. "I just tried to play good defense, but they called a
couple of fouls. Overall, the team stepped up and I think we
played much smarter."
"The thing about it is you've got to stick with what works for
you," Malone added. "We have a system we try to run. We just
have to stay focused. Even when Shaq picked up those fouls, we
still realized what we had to do."
Houston had a 54-53 lead before Bryant made a wild layup with
his back to his basket and 7:07 left in the third quarter. He
was fouled and made the free throw to put Los Angeles by two
"That was a nice move," O'Neal said. "He got bumped in the air
and didn't even look at the basket. He did the Jordan-type move
in the air."
countered with a dunk to tie it before Bryant
made two free throws with 6:27 remaining in the period to
trigger an 8-0 run that put the Lakers ahead for good. The
Lakers held a 66-62 edge before Malone made a jumper with 49
seconds left in the third quarter.
Bryant followed with a 3-pointer and, after a layup by Houston's
, sank three free throws following an ill-advised
foul by Mobley with two seconds to go, opening a 74-64 cushion.
"I think today might have been Kobe's birthday, how generous
they (referees) were to him out there," Francis said. "To me,
that's what opened the game up. I thought we played hard and
guys were aggressive at times, but we didn't keep the same
intensity throughout the game."
The Rockets got no closer in the final quarter and trailed by as
many as 17 points.
"First of all, just looking at the score you can tell it wasn't
a close game," said Rockets center Yao Ming
, who had 21 points
but just one in the third quarter and six in the fourth. "And
in the second half, you could tell that our attention slipped
and we weren't focused on the game like we were the last time.
"I think everybody is tired at this point in the season. You
can't say 'I'm coming off a back-to-back.' Everybody's got the
added 19 points and Francis collected 18, 12 assists
and 10 rebounds for a triple-double in his second career
"It was tough," Francis said, "because there was one point I
think at the end of the third quarter, when I drove to the
basket, missed a layup and they came down and hit a three. And
after that, the game just kind of opened up in their favor."
The Rockets struggled at the line, going just 19-of-30. The
Lakers were 23-of-27, with Bryant sinking 16-of-17.
Game Three of the best-of-seven series is Friday in Houston.
"We stuck with them for a while," Mobley said. "It was just
towards the end of the third quarter, I think, we cracked as a
team and they capitalized. It's really not back to the drawing
board. We're down 2-0 right now, but you know, you don't give