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Lakers even series

L.A. holds off 76ers rally and gets back on the winning track with 12-1 post-season record.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 9, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal was at his best, Kobe Bryant was much better than last game and the Lakers built a big enough lead to hold off the no-quit Philadelphia 76ers.

[AP photos]
Kobe Bryant slams home the point: The Lakers were on the comeback trail. He had 31 points and Shaquille O'Neal had 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists and a record 8 blocks.
Tying the NBA record for blocked shots in a championship series game, O'Neal had 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists and 8 blocks as the Lakers evened the NBA Finals at one game apiece with a 98-89 victory Friday night.

Bryant had 31 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists -- as well as an earful of trash talk from Allen Iverson in the final seconds after Iverson fouled Bryant.

The series grew more testy and confrontational in a game the Lakers controlled most of the way. But after O'Neal picked up his fifth foul with 6:38 left, Philadelphia used a 13-3 run to close within three points with 2:22 left.

O'Neal then got his ninth assist on a three-pointer by Derek Fisher, and Bryant fed Robert Horry for a basket from close in that gave the Lakers a 94-86 lead with 1:19 left. O'Neal's jump hook with 28 seconds left gave Los Angeles an eight-point lead that all but sealed the victory.

The series resumes Sunday night in Philadelphia, where Iverson will try to make a bigger contribution.

Iverson, who scored 48 in Game1, had 23 but missed all three of his free-throw attempts. The 76ers rallied after trailing 77-67 at the end of the third quarter but 6-for-14 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter prevented Philadelphia from getting closer than three points.

O'Neal tied the championship series record for blocks held by Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing.

The Lakers bounced back from a 107-101 overtime loss in Game1, as did Bryant, who scored 15 points in the loss on Wednesday.

Los Angeles reeled off a 14-4 string to close out the third quarter.

O'Neal had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Bryant added 16 points to help the Lakers to a 49-47 halftime lead.

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant exchanges words with the Sixers' Allen Iverson.
O'Neal also had four assists and three blocks in the first half.

In the first half, the biggest gap was Philadelphia's seven-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Iverson was held to 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting through the first half.

Bryant was 7-of-15 from the floor in the first half this time after going 7-of-22 for the entire first game.

Reserve center Todd MacCulloch had seven points and three rebounds in eight minutes to help the 76ers open a 40-33 lead with 6:35 remaining in the second quarter, but Philadelphia then went cold, getting just three points over the next 21/2 minutes.

In the meantime, the Lakers ran off a 12-3 string to take a 45-43 lead on O'Neal's short jumper with 1:42 left in the half.

The Lakers were up 25-24 at the end of the opening quarter.

Bryant scored 12 points in the quarter, going 5-for-9.

Iverson missed his first five shots but made three of his next four and scored seven points in the opening quarter.

O'Neal had five points and six rebounds in the first 12 minutes, but missed five of his six free throws. He did not go to the line in the second quarter.

The Lakers improved to 12-1 in the playoffs.

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