Bryant scored 31 points on an off-night, and O'Neal added 20
points in 24 minutes as the Los Angeles Lakers rolled to a 109-90
"It's not easy," O'Neal said. "We're just playing good ball and good defense. The guys are shooting the ball well."
Especially, Bryant and O'Neal -- even on a night when the Lakers played their second road game in two nights.
Despite missing two dunks, Bryant still hit 11 of 22 shots. He also shot 8-of-14 from the free-throw line in an unusually poor night for the league's No. 17 foul shooter, who was making 85.5 percent. But he hit all seven of his free throws in the second half.
O'Neal's playing time was limited because of early foul trouble and the fact that the Lakers rested him the entire fourth quarter. Yet he still shot 8-of-12 and blocked five shots.
The Pacers, like many NBA teams, had no answers for the Lakers duo.
"We have played well on the road before," Lakers coach Phil
Jackson said. "But the level we've had lately has been impressive."
They certainly played at a level the Pacers hadn't seen lately.
Los Angeles recorded its sixth straight victory by becoming the first team in seven games to score more than 100 points against Indiana.
The Pacers had won two straight coming into the game, but O'Neal, Bryant and the Lakers defense made sure Indiana never had much of a chance at No. 3.
And the Pacers never led after O'Neal completed a three-point play 52 seconds into the second quarter.
"I can't believe you guys didn't give him the MVP last year," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "When you're talking about Shaq, you're talking about a level this league hasn't seen."
Yet the Pacers, who lost to the Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals,
led almost the entire first quarter, until Devean George's dunk with 28.4 seconds left.
That seemed to spark the Lakers, who used a 10-2 run in the second quarter to take charge.
Los Angeles put the game away by opening the third quarter on a
15-0 run, with Bryant and O'Neal combining to score 13 of the
points. That made it 64-43 with 6:55 left in the third quarter and
left the Pacers wondering if there was anything they could do to
match up with Bryant and O'Neal.
"The third quarter, when Shaq came back, he was determined to dominate," Thomas said. "We have the same problem as the rest of the league with this guy. He's better than advertised."
Indiana did close to 81-64 after three quarters, but the Lakers, playing without O'Neal, started the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run and never allowed the Pacers to challenge again.
"When we come to take care of business, like we've been doing, I don't see a problem at all," O'Neal said. "We just have to keep playing like this."
The Lakers' victory was their first regular-season win at Conseco Fieldhouse. ... The 109 points scored against Indiana was the most allowed by the Pacers in eight games. It's also the second highest total scored by an opponent in Indianapolis this season... The victory came on the second game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, improving their record to 3-3 in those games. ... The
Pacers' big three -- Jalen Rose, O'Neal and Miller -- were a combined
10 of 34 from the field.
Cleveland hopes a Cavaliers championship is in the cards for a tortured sports city. But it might help to forget the past when facing the Warriors in Sunday's Game 7 (8 p.m. ET, ABC & WatchESPN).
As the NBA draft nears, numerous prospects have been going through the grueling process of traveling from city to city for workouts on a daily basis.
With Game 7 looming, all of the Warriors' frustrations mask -- or maybe stem from -- the way the Cavaliers have managed to alter the terms of these NBA Finals.