NBA Playoffs Roundup
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Disaster averted.
The Los Angeles Lakers, dominant during the NBA’s regular season, shaky in two games at Arco Arena and one loss shy of embarrassment, played like champions Friday night.
``Oh, we were ready, very focused, came out with a lot of firepower,″ said Glen Rice, who had 14 points, five rebounds and six assists to help the Lakers trounce the Sacramento Kings 113-86 in the deciding game of the best-of-five playoff series. ``We wanted to let them know we meant business.″
The Lakers did just that, going on top by double digits a little over nine minutes into the first quarter. It was 31-20 entering the second period and 59-44 at halftime, and the Kings got no closer than 14 points after that.
In another Game 5 Friday night, Utah defeated Seattle 96-93 to advance to the second round against Portland. The Lakers will face Phoenix, with both Western Conference semifinals starting Sunday.
In the East, Philadelphia was at Indiana today in their opener, and Miami will play host to New York on Sunday.
The Kings never trailed the Lakers in winning Game 4 101-88 in Sacramento to force a fifth game.
``We just came out and played our game,″ Lakers guard Ron Harper said. ``We got into a team flow and rolled on and on and on. The game was over by the end of the third quarter.″
The Lakers, whose 67 regular-season wins were eight more than anyone else managed and the second-most in franchise history, knew they were on the verge of becoming the biggest upset victims in NBA playoff history. A top-seeded team has lost to an eighth seed only twice.
``We knew if we didn’t bring our `A’ game, we were going to make history,″ said Shaquille O’Neal, who had 32 points and 18 rebounds in 35 minutes. ``And we didn’t want to make history.″
Now, the Lakers face the rested Suns starting Sunday at Staples Center, where Los Angeles has won 20 of its last 21 games.
``I don’t care when it had to happen, but I’ve been talking all year about how we needed a trial by fire,″ Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ``Certainly, a team has to have that at some point to develop the mettle and grit and to be able to sustain the poise, direction and intensity.
``They gave us a lot of push, and we needed that as a basketball team if we’re going to advance.″
Jackson’s six championship teams in Chicago all swept their first-round series. This would be no sweep, but it’s the Kings going home and the Lakers going on.
``There are no excuses for how we played,″ said Kings star Chris Webber, who scored 20 points _ more than twice as many as any of his teammates. ``It’s just a sick feeling in my stomach right now. It’s kind of hard to decipher what happened.″
What happened was the normally laid-back Staples Center crowd was probably more vocal than it’s been all year, and the Lakers fed off it.
``I don’t know if I’ve seen a crowd in L.A. as alive as this one in a long time,″ said Jackson, who’s taken jabs at the local following on occasion.
O’Neal outrebounded the entire Sacramento team in the first half, 14-12, and his teammates contributed steady offensive production and their usual solid defense.
The game was so onesided that O’Neal was the only Lakers starter to play in the fourth quarter, and he watched the final 10:03 from the sidelines.
Kobe Bryant finished with 17 points, and A.C. Green, told by Jackson to shoot more, added 10.
Derek Fisher, who didn’t play in Game 4, was called on late in the first quarter and made four outside jumpers in as many attempts before halftime.
Robert Horry spelled Green and scored six of his eight points in the second quarter.
Fisher admitted he was hurt about not playing Tuesday night.
``I think everybody on the team wants to help the team,″ he said. ``It was tough for me to deal with, I hadn’t dealt with that it 3 1/2 years. It was tough, but you always have to be ready.″
The Kings, who surprised just about everyone but themselves by forcing a fifth game, were awful in this one.
``It’s frustrating to end up the season with a pathetic effort,″ Sacramento’s Jon Barry said.
Jazz 96, SuperSonics 93
Karl Malone scored 27 points, while John Stockton had 17 points and 15 assists and hit two free throws with 9 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.
The Sonics got a final chance, but Chuck Person’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer, sending Utah to a rematch with Portland. Last year, the Trail Blazers eliminated the Jazz in six games.
Bryon Russell scored 16 points for Utah and helped limit Seattle star Gary Payton to 27. Jeff Hornacek, retiring at the end of the season, added 14 points for the Jazz.
The home team won each game in the series.