Wednesday, June 12
Updated: June 13, 12:55 AM ET
In the end, Nets just zoned out against Shaq
By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Los Angeles Lakers started sluggishly on defense in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, but they were crisp on offense. The New Jersey Nets were playing a lot of zone defense and the Lakers answered it very well. Shaquille O'Neal was terrific against the zone.
In Game 3, when the Nets went to a lot of zone, Shaq only had four shots in the last period and made just one. I talked to him after that game about that, and he said that the Nets were putting two or three defenders around him. But I told him, "You can't let them take you out of the ball game." He said was going to be active. And he was.
He got his scoring opportunities and shot a good percentage with those, making 12 of 20 attempts for a team-high 34 points. But when he was jammed up, O'Neal got the ball out of the lane and the ball got swung to L.A.'s 3-pointer shooters, who shot 58 percent (11 of 19) from three.
The other thing the Lakers did against New Jersey's zone was that they attacked it when the ball came out of the paint from O'Neal. The ball was swung to Kobe Bryant on the weak side, and he penetrated. He didn't always get to the basket but he made scoring passes. Bryant had eight assists against just one turnover.
Turnovers turned out to be a big factor for the Lakers. They kept their turnovers to 10 in this game after committing 51 in the previous three games.
Overall, the Lakers did a good job on Jason Kidd, who shot 5-for-14 from the field Wednesday night. The Nets don't rely on him to be a productive scorer, but Kidd just wasn't dominating. And fatigue had nothing to do with it.
I think the Lakers wear you out. All the attention that Shaq requires defensively, all the maneuvering that you have to do to contain him, and then having to be concerned with Kobe -- it's like an impossible task. And the Nets don't have a center. They were trying to make do with Todd MacCulloch, Aaron Williams and Jason Collins. They just weren't enough. But the Nets should feel good about their season. In these two games, they came back and made them competitive.
O'Neal didn't want to play any extra games. He told me, "We need 15 wins. We need to get 15 wins as soon as we can." The Lakers had all the little incentive kinds of things to motivate them.
The only other team to win more than three titles in a row are the Boston Celtics, and they won eight straight. Bryant says he's already talked to the guys about working out over the summer. They're not going to sit around like they did last year because teams are coming after them. They want to keep winning, and I see no reason for them not to with those two guys.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who won an NBA title with Portland in 1977, is an NBA analyst for ESPN.