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Lakers 108, Kings 105
Business as Usual
LOS ANGELES, May 6 (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings gave Shaquille O'Neal a little more room to roam than most teams do.

They wound up paying an expensive price.

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Shaq scored 2 of his 44 points on this alley-oop dunk over Divac.
Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE Photos
NBA.com TV highlights: 28.8+ | ISDN+
O'Neal was at his dominating best with 44 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots Sunday as the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers held off the Kings 108-105 to begin their second-round playoff series.

Kobe Bryant added 29 points for the Lakers, meaning their teammates combined to score only 35.

In the end, though, it didn't matter, although the Kings were in contention all the way.

"They were staying with Foxy, they were staying with Fish," Bryant said, referring to Rick Fox and Derek Fisher. "That opened up the entire middle for Shaq to operate."

And operate O'Neal did.

O'Neal, who had 13 of his team's 24 points and nine of its 16 rebounds in the fourth quarter, said his teammates were looking for him.

"They were not doubling me, so I just tried to take the high-percentage shots," he said. "Close to the basket, I'm going to take those shots all night.

"Whatever they throw at me, I'll be ready. They're probably going to double me a little more quickly."

O'Neal, who made 17-of-32 shots and 10-of-19 free throws, also had five of his 11 offensive rebounds in the final period.

"Shaq saved the day time and again by getting all those offensive rebounds," teammate Brian Shaw said. "They're going to have to figure out a way to combat that."

Kings coach Rick Adelman said as much.

"The guy is unbelievable," Adelman said. "He's big, he's strong, he's quick. He really has learned how to play to his physical talents. I thought Vlade (Divac) and Scot (Pollard) tried, but he's a handful.

"I'm more concerned about the amount of holding and grabbing Rick Fox did on Predrag (Stojakovic)."

Guarded mainly by Fox, Stojakovic made only 6-of-18 shots in scoring 20 points.

Fox reacted to Adelman's remark by saying, "Is he Dunleavy's brother or something," referring to Portland coach Mike Dunleavy.

Divac criticized the officiating concerning O'Neal, saying: "They're going to change the rules next season, but I guess they changed them for this series. I have a lot of respect for Shaq, he's a great guy and a great player, but they weren't calling three seconds or swinging the elbows. It was ridiculous. Give me a break."

Coming off a first-round sweep of Portland, the Lakers extended their season-high winning streak to 12 games -- eight to finish the regular season, and four in the playoffs. They haven't lost since April 1.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Staples Center before the series moves to Sacramento for the third and fourth games.

The Kings, who trailed the entire fourth quarter, scored six straight points capped by a jumper by Chris Webber with 24.1 seconds left to cut the Lakers' lead to 103-101.

Derek Fisher made 1-of-2 free throws less than a second later, and O'Neal blocked a driving layup by Jason Williams some five seconds after that.

Bryant made four foul shots after that to clinch the victory. Stojakovic's layup at the final buzzer completed the scoring.

Webber led Sacramento with a career playoff-high 34 points and eight rebounds. Williams added 14 points but committed six of the Kings' 16 turnovers, and Pollard had 14 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Two baskets by O'Neal and another by Robert Horry gave the Lakers a 90-80 lead -- largest of the game for either team -- with 10:40 remaining.

But the Kings battled back, and Webber's three-point play with 5:57 to play made it 97-93.

O'Neal missed four free throws in the next 1{ minutes, but the Kings couldn't capitalize, and Bryant fed Horace Grant for an open baseline jumper with 3:48 left. O'Neal's follow dunk 40 seconds later made it 101-93.

Bryant scored 17 points in the third period, including the last four, helping the Lakers take an 84-78 lead into the fourth quarter.

O'Neal added 12 points in the period, with a basket by Grant accounting for the only other Los Angeles points.

"I thought we played a pretty good game for not having any combat for a week," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Shaq was the dominant player out there today, without a doubt, and Rick did a nice job defensively on Stojakovic."

Notes: The game was the opener of a postseason doubleheader at Staples Center; the Los Angeles Kings faced the Colorado Avalanche at night in the NHL playoffs. ... Backup Lakers center Greg Foster wasn't available because of a sprained right foot. It's hoped he'll be able to play in Game 2. ... While the Lakers have been consistent winners over the years, the Kings have experienced little success. The Lakers have reached the NBA Finals 19 times since moving to Los Angeles in 1961, winning seven championships. The Kings have never won a title, and are playing in the second round for the first time in 20 years. ... The Lakers have a 57-16 regular-season against the Kings since they moved to Sacramento in 1985. ... Jackson said he was unaware San Antonio's Derek Anderson separated his shoulder Saturday until asked about it before the game. "That really hurts them," he said. The Spurs and Lakers are seeded 1-2 in the Western Conference.

 
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