NBA Playoffs
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  Monday, Jun. 19 9:00pm ET
Led by Shaq, Lakers now NBA champs

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The big fella cried, spilling tears that had been welling up inside his massive 7-foot-1, 330-pound body for eight years.

Quote of the Night
"I just want to say thank you for believing in us. We're going to get one next year, too."
-- Shaq saying the words every title-winning coach wants to hear.

Shaq's Report Card
Well, you know that Shaquille O'Neal is going to get a good grade. All the guy did was score 41 and take over in the fourth quarter. But what about sidekick Kobe Bryant? He missed 19 shots, but helped his team in other ways. And even Glen Rice earned a nice grade. Maybe we're softening since the series is over. A few Pacers got good grades, too, but not the one who really needed to. So don't be too surprised when you click here for our comprehensive Report Card for Game 6 and see how we broke down everyone's game.

Why the Lakers won
They led 24-23 in the first quarter, then didn't lead again until the score was in the 90s. So you have to hand it to the champs for first of all sticking around all night when the Pacers were shooting the lights out. Then the Lakers took control in the fourth quarter, hitting 12 of 23 shots and outscoring Indy 37-27. Shaq didn't miss from the field in the fourth, and the bench hit crucial 3-pointers to keep momentum. After winning 67 games during the season, the Lakers had to win the series, and they had to win it in Game 6 or risk public humiliation. This was the coronation they had expected since November. They finished it off the right way.

Why the Pacers lost
We're going to go with the premise that the Lakers won the game, not that the Pacers lost it. Fact is that the Pacers were shooting better than 51 percent through three quarters and led 84-79 heading into the fourth. Then they hit only 5 of 17 shots in the fourth quarter, which is a tough way to win a game. We're not sure how Reggie Miller will be remembered after this one, failing to produce in the final minutes on the road yet again, but he did get the team here. More points from Rik Smits would've helped, more than four 3-pointers in the second half couldn't have hurt, but overall the Pacers just weren't as good as the Lakers. And they seemed to know it. They pushed the series six games and will be remembered in a positive light because of it. Other than winning it all, you can't ask for more.

Number of the Game
This number can mean two things. First, the Lakers' bench, which was not a factor through three quarters, nailed four 3-pointers in the final 12 minutes to augment Shaq's performance. Robert Horry (two), Rick Fox and Derek Fisher hit the big shots. Secondly, that O'Neal guy earned the MVP award for the regular season, the All-Star Game and the NBA Finals in the same season, which had been done only three other times before that (Michael Jordan twice, Willis Reed once).

Final Word: Robert Horry
"Pacers got a good team. It's two different styles of ball. The West is finesse, Indiana's like power. You can't go by how the guys in the West play. A lot of times, you know, we play really well; sometimes we don't. Tonight, the West showed they're the best. They're going to be the best for a while."

So what do you think?
Well, it ended on the night most figured it would. Maybe you thought it would be a sweep, you could've given the Pacers two home games before it all began. But ultimately in a series with two teams that each lost only five times at home, it came down to the Lakers closing a team out on their home floor. Tell us what you think of Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Shaq and Kobe or anything else Finals-related by clicking here.

Our final word from L.A.
Let's not get mushy. But Games 4 and 6 in this series were what NBA playoff basketball is all about. The middle game in Indiana went to overtime and the result was in doubt until the final seconds. Had Indy won it, we might be going to a Game 7. Then the Lakers' clincher was a well-shot game for much of it and the home team didn't really take control until the final five minutes. Can you ask for much more than that? If you managed to stay awake past midnight on the East coast you might have seen what is the next NBA's dynasty. Look for that to be the talk in the coming days, as Michael, Magic and Larry are all asked to discuss what place this Lakers team has with the other greats. We'll reserve judgment for awhile, but watching Kobe and Shaq together is a bit scary.

He hugged his family, lifting several of them off the floor, and walked to center court where the championship and MVP trophies awaited and the purple and gold confetti streamed down from the rafters.

This was the moment that had eluded Shaquille O'Neal. Bad free-throw shooter, one-dimensional player, bad actor, a rapper without a ring -- all those titles had dogged him throughout his NBA career.

Not any more.

Like Magic, Wilt and Kareem before him, Shaq and his sidekick Kobe can now be described with just one word: champion.

Taking over in an exciting fourth quarter that ended Larry Bird's coaching career, O'Neal and Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-111 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals for the franchise's first title since 1988.

"I've waited eight years of my life for this to happen, and it finally happened," said O'Neal, who broke down at center court after achieving the goal that had eluded him for so long.

The victory gave Lakers coach Phil Jackson his seventh title -- his first without Michael Jordan -- in just his first season coaching a team that had been ousted from the playoffs in each of the first three seasons since O'Neal and Bryant arrived.

O'Neal scored 41 points, marking the third time he scored 40 or more in this series. "Ugliest 41 I ever had," he said.

Bryant had 26 including four free throws that clinched it in the final 13 seconds.

"I'm numb. I'm just numb right now," the 21-year-old Bryant said. "I didn't know champagne burned this much when it gets in your eyes."

O'Neal, 28, was the unanimous choice for MVP of the series, adding to his MVP awards from the regular season and All-Star game.

O'Neal and Bryant hugged on the court after the final buzzer, and O'Neal was mobbed by his family as he tried to leave the court. With his exit blocked, he turned around and headed to midcourt to receive the championship trophy.

It was the 12th title in franchise history for the Lakers, the seventh since they moved to Los Angeles in 1960. Magic Johnson, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain had earned Los Angeles' previous titles, and this starstruck city had been anxiously awaiting the next one -- especially since O'Neal arrived from Orlando in 1996.

Even though they trailed for most of the first three quarters against a better shooting, more experienced opponent, the Lakers were the superior team down the stretch.

Indiana tied the game at 103-103 on a 3-pointer by Jalen Rose with 5:04 left, but that was the beginning of the end.

Robert Horry, who won his third career title, hit a leaner from the lane, and Ron Harper, who won his fourth, stole the ball on the Pacers' next possession.

O'Neal hit a soft 10-footer from the baseline, Rose missed on a drive and Bryant calmly sank a 20-footer, bobbing and weaving and whistling ever so slightly as he sauntered back to the bench and Indiana called timeout with 3:28 left.

The Pacers then went to the Hack-a-Shaq defensive strategy, sending O'Neal to the line four times in a span of 21 seconds. He missed three of them before Jackson took him out with 2:27 left.

Kobe Bryant
It wasn't a great shooting game for Kobe Bryant, but he helped the Lakers in a lot of ways to get the win.
When O'Neal returned with 1:56 left, the Lakers' lead was down to 110-107 and Indiana had the ball. Austin Croshere was fouled with 1 second left on the shot clock and made both to make it a one-point game.

Glen Rice answered with two free throws, Croshere airballed a turnaround jumper, Bryant missed a drive and Miller rushed a long 3-pointer and missed.

Bryant then was isolated at the top of the key and was hacked on a drive. He calmly made both free throws with 13 seconds left for a 114-109 lead.

Dale Davis dunked for Indiana to make it a three-point game with 5.4 seconds left, but Bryant again went to the line and calmly sank two more to clinch it.

As he walked to the bench, he pointed to his ring finger, the one that will soon be adorned with a championship ring.

After the game, owner Jerry Buss addressed the fans and commissioner David Stern presented O'Neal with his trophy.

O'Neal held it aloft in his massive left arm and waved it to the crowd.

"I want to thank Phil Jackson, the real coach of the year," O'Neal said, referring to the media's selection of Doc Rivers of Orlando for that award. "I want to thank you all for believing in us. We're going to get one next year, too."

That'll be the next test for the Lakers, to see if they can build a dynasty to replace Jordan and the Bulls.

For now, though, it's one title -- the one O'Neal and Bryant had been waiting for.

O'Neal shot 19-for-32 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Bryant had 10 rebounds and four assists to buffer an 8-for-27 shooting performance.

Rice added 16 for the Lakers, who outscored Indiana 37-27 in the fourth quarter.

"That's what I like about Phil, not what he did with Michael and Scottie, but how he got the other guys to play," O'Neal said. "He just put it down on paper and said this is what you're going to do."

Rose had 29, Miller 25 and Davis 20 for the Pacers, whose quest for the franchise's first NBA title came up short. In the end, they simply couldn't keep up with the energy the Lakers got from a crowd that waited 12 years for this moment.

The fans got out of control outside Staples Center. They set fire to four vehicles, including two police cars and a TV news van, and lighted several bonfires.

As many as 10,000 fans gathered to celebrate outside the arena, and the Pacers' bus was prevented from leaving for almost 2½ hours because of the crowd. Fans mobbed O'Neal's SUV as it left the arena.

For much of the game, it looked like that party wouldn't happen until Game 7 Wednesday night -- or maybe not at all.

The Lakers repeatedly whittled down deficits and got within one, only to watch the Pacers surge back ahead. But when Los Angeles made yet another charge early in the fourth and finally took the lead, it was the Pacers who had to play from behind.

Brian Shaw stole the ball from Rose three minutes into the fourth quarter and O'Neal scored on a fast break while being fouled to give the Lakers their first lead since late in the first quarter.

O'Neal, who stayed down for a minute clutching his left knee, missed a chance for a three-point play. But Rose then missed a reverse layup with O'Neal in his way and Rick Fox nailed a long 3-pointer for a 94-90 lead.

It would be another 3-plus minutes before Indiana tied it, and Horry's leaner with 4:48 left gave the Lakers the lead for good.

Their championship capped a season that included winning streaks of 19, 16 and 11 games. Their playoff run included a stunning comeback from a late 16-point deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Sam Perkins gave Indiana its first double-digit lead on a 3-pointer with 7:44 left that made it 42-32. Perkins hit another 3, the Pacers' seventh of the game, for a 47-35 lead midway though the quarter.

The Lakers finally took back the momentum late in the quarter, getting a steal from Bryant, a dunk from O'Neal, a steal from Harper and a 3-pointer by Bryant -- all in the final 47 seconds -- to close to 56-53 at the half.

Bryant started the third quarter with a short jumper to make it a one-point game, but the Pacers scored nine of the next 11 points, including a 3-pointer by Miller, for a 67-59 lead.

Miller shot a glance at actor Jack Nicholson after hitting his next jumper, and the Pacers maintained control for the next few minutes. But Bryant hit a short pull-up jumper, A.C. Green made a 12-footer and Rice hit a 3-pointer from the corner to cut Indiana's lead to 71-70.

Los Angeles had two chances to take the lead but failed both times as Bryant missed a jumper and Rice misfired on two free throws. Indiana got its lead back up to seven as Jackson had a 3-pointer and Miller had a three-point play.

The Lakers again closed within one, but Indiana scored the final four points of the quarter to take an 84-79 lead into the fourth.

Game notes
Lakers reserve center John Salley became the first NBA player to win titles with three different teams. He also won with Detroit and Chicago. ... Lakers forward A.C. Green also was a member of the Lakers when they won in 1988. ... O'Neal picked up a technical foul in the second quarter for shoving Croshere in the back. Croshere also got kneed in the ribs while drawing an offensive foul on Horry late in the second quarter. Croshere finished with 16 points and an enormous amount of respect gained.

NBA Scoreboard

Indiana Clubhouse

LA Lakers Clubhouse's NBA Finals coverage

X factor: Shaq gives L.A. the lead, and a title

Frozen moment: Rice cooks at the end

Bird departs Pacers bench with pride

Fourth quarter not Miller time

L.A. celebration marred by bonfires, vandalism


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