Saturday, June 9
Lakers finally get a handle on series

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LOS ANGELES -- There were a couple of reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers rebounded with a 98-89 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal, blocking a shot by Todd MacCulloch, was a big key on offense for the Lakers.

For the most part, the Lakers took better care of the ball. At the end of the first half, they only had four turnovers. Although they got off to a shaky start doing some of the same things that cost them Game 1, the Lakers got a good rhythm going in the second period.

In the second and third quarters, they established their dominance. The ball was going through Shaquille O'Neal, and the offense was developing from that point. If the Sixers were double-teaming O'Neal, he found open people for scores. His nine assists made a huge difference in the game.

Kobe Bryant became more of a factor, too. He was more assertive with his offense. He ended up with 31 points, but he also had eight rebounds and six assists. He and Shaq combined for 59 points, and when they put up that type of numbers together, it becomes a different game. The Lakers become tough to beat.

Derek Fisher was also very important for L.A. He scored 14 points, and when the Sixers got to within three late in the fourth quarter, he hit the 3-pointer that pushed the lead back to six. Fisher did a good defensive job on Allen Iverson, too. He was the main defender on Iverson and was mostly responsible for the fact that Iverson was 10-for-29 and only went to the free-throw line four times.

There were two factors in Iverson's inability to get to the line: Iverson couldn't get to the basket because of Fisher's defense and the second defender was coming at him to close off his path to the basket. They forced Iverson to pass the ball out from his penetrations rather than letting him take it all the way to the basket, where he would get fouled.

Everyone who defended Iverson did a good job. Iverson probably shot too much from the perimeter and misfired on some quick jumpers that the Lakers ran with for easy baskets. The Lakers were able to establish their fastbreak thanks to that. They got 25 fastbreak points to the Sixers' nine. In Game 1, the Sixers got 19 fastbreak points.

The Sixers still showed that they're a tough defensive team. They won't quit. They got to within three points late in the fourth period with some withering pressure defense, and the Lakers, who had only eight turnovers up until the fourth period, had eight in the final quarter alone. That enabled Philadelphia to get back in the game.

The Sixers got some good minutes off the bench from Todd MacCulloch and Matt Geiger, and Raja Bell continues to impress me with his defense. He's a tremendous defender. And Aaron McKie showed no ill effects to the bone chip in his ankle. I thought he had a very solid game -- same for Eric Snow.

Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay is a game analyst for ESPN Radio and a regular contributor to

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