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Shaq powers Lakers past Nets in Game 2

LAKERS 106, NETS 83: Shaquille O'Neal's 40 points and near-perfect free-throw shooting give L.A. a 2-0 lead.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2002

LAKERS 106, NETS 83: Shaquille O'Neal's 40 points and near-perfect free-throw shooting give L.A. a 2-0 lead.

LOS ANGELES -- The task of stopping Shaquille O'Neal appears to be impossible for the Nets. Preventing the Lakers from winning a third straight title looks improbable.

Scoring 40 points, making several pretty passes and doing almost nothing wrong, O'Neal led the Lakers to a 106-83 win over the Nets Friday.

The Lakers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA championship series, toying with their opponents while never trailing. Los Angeles led by as many as 20, let the Nets creep within six early in the fourth and quickly ended any comeback thoughts New Jersey may have had.

The most memorable image may have been O'Neal standing at the free-throw line, right arm extended in a follow-through as he watched free throw after free throw go in. The Nets sent the notoriously poor free-throw shooter to the line 14 times, and O'Neal made a dozen.

"He's showing he can do it all now," the Nets' Jason Kidd said.

New Jersey stuck with single coverage against O'Neal in the first half, then went to double- and triple-team in the second.

O'Neal had six dunks to go with an array of short jumpers and bank shots as he finished six points short of his playoff high.

Kobe Bryant added a quiet 24 and Derek Fisher 12 for the Lakers, who can win their third consecutive championship and give coach Phil Jackson his ninth title in 12 years by winning two more.

"We felt we had to come out and establish a certain sense of domination," Jackson said. "It's about winning each quarter and not winning a big quarter and then cruising. If you're going to beat a basketball team and you're going to put it in their mind that they have doubts, you want to salt those wounds."

Game 3 is Sunday night at New Jersey, a few miles from O'Neal's hometown of Newark. Unless the Nets find a way to contain him, their prospects of bringing the series back to Los Angeles are slim.

"He's just such a dominant player, I don't know what to do against Shaq," Nets coach Byron Scott said.

O'Neal was 14-for-23 from the field with team-high totals of 12 rebounds and eight assists. He left to a thunderous standing ovation with more than a minute remaining.

"He's playing at a level now where he's in his prime, and there's nothing that anybody can do about that," Bryant said.

Kerry Kittles scored 23 and Kidd added 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Nets.

The game got away from New Jersey late in the third after Kidd made two free throws to cut the deficit to 65-57.

O'Neal passed out of double coverage and found Bryant for a 3, then hit four consecutive free throws and a 9-foot fadeaway. A 3-pointer by Brian Shaw off an assist from O'Neal completed a 12-0 run and gave the Lakers a 77-57 lead.

New Jersey scored the final four of the third quarter and made three quick 3s early in the fourth to pull within 83-77, but O'Neal went to the line and scored points 39 and 40 with 7:19 left.

Fisher hit a 3 off an assist from O'Neal with 5:53 left for a 90-79 lead, and the Lakers turned it into a blowout, closing the game with a 12-0 run.

New Jersey shot just 15-for-49 in the half, including 0-for-6 on 3s, and missed four of their eight free throws in the second quarter. But the Nets hung in by controlling the offensive glass, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to the Lakers' three.

O'Neal reached 30 points by dunking and making a free throw off a perfect pick-and-roll pass from Bryant with 61/2 minutes left in the third -- just before the Lakers' 12-0 run gave them a lead too big for the Nets to overcome.

"I'm not trying to intimidate anyone. I'm just trying to win," O'Neal said. "I'm just focusing on number three. I don't get into that intimidation."

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