One of those again?
Another career playoff high for Eddie Jones, this time the 29 points made on 12 of 17 shots?
Another natural high for all the Lakers, this time the 119-103 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Friday night before 17,505 at the Great Western Forum?
"We shot 57% from the field, outrebounded them, 46-39, had only 12 turnovers, got 12 blocked shots--what more can we do?" Coach Del Harris said. "That's about as well as we can play."
The Lakers' third impressive showing in the last four games--following the first-round clincher at Portland and Wednesday's victory at Seattle--gave them a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals.
It was a much greater test than the final score would indicate, the SuperSonics having come from 13 down at the start of the fourth quarter to within 92-89 with 7:41 remaining.
But the Lakers used a 20-second timeout to regroup, then went on a 16-4 run the next 4:14 to regain control, a strong finish that came as Jones had his second big offensive night, Robert Horry got 19 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, Shaquille O'Neal had 30 points and 10 rebounds and Nick Van Exel added 22 points.
"We just said, 'Hey, that's it. We've got to make our stand now,' " Harris said of the timeout.
So they did.
"Fortunately, our guys were able to withstand it," he said. "Our will bent, but it didn't break."
Jones' start was more like a continuation, coming as it did on the heels of his three three-point baskets in five tries Wednesday at KeyArena and the 23 points that set a career playoff high. The previous mark of 21 had been set in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Trail Blazers, and this one had an even shorter shelf life.
Friday, two of his first three baskets came from behind the arc. The two after that came on jumpers, giving him 12 points in the first quarter as the Lakers shot 62.5%.
Resting at the start of the second quarter, Jones didn't take his first shot until 5:54 remained and got only three the entire period. But one was a three-point shot and another was a three-point play, so he still scored eight more points.
That gave him 20 by halftime, and the Lakers a 56-51 lead after Van Exel's 21-footer with 0.8 to play, after scoring 92 points in each of the first two games of the series. They were still at 55.6%, and it would have been even more impressive except that O'Neal missed six of his 10 tries, all from close range.
O'Neal was doing damage in other areas, though. Jim McIlvaine, the first SuperSonic assigned to him, picked up two fouls the opening 50 seconds, was left in by Coach George Karl, and then got a third with six minutes still remaining in the quarter. Jerome Kersey got another turn at center, despite giving away six inches and about 100 pounds, and got three personal fouls in the second period.
Meanwhile, O'Neal blocked three shots at the other end, another improvement after getting only 10 in the first five postseason outings. The breakout was swatting four in Game 2, a contribution that came along with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
"Superb," Harris said of O'Neal's defense Wednesday. "And so was everybody's. But he has come a long way in defense, and he still has more to do. But in his defense--in defense of his defense--we are asking him to be the leading scorer, the leading rebounder, the leading shot blocker."
Staying out of foul trouble helps. O'Neal had fouled out only once in 66 games this season, including the playoffs, but two personals in the third quarter of No. 67 gave him four on night, and a trip to the bench with 5:30 left.
Still, that was long enough to make three of four shots, helping the Lakers to 56.5% shooting in the period, as Van Exel made half his six attempts and scored nine. The five-point cushion coming out of intermission had become 13 by the start of the fourth.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
LAKERS vs. SEATTLE
NBA PLAYOFFS WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
BY THE NUMBERS
8: Number of playoff games the SuperSonics have lost in a row at the Forum (last victory was in 1980).
29: Eddie Jones sets a career playoff high, surpassing the 23 points he scored in Game 2 at Seattle.
7 of 7: Robert Horry didn't miss a field-goal attempt and finished with 19 points.
17-7: SuperSonic run to start the fourth quarter, cutting the Laker lead to 94-91 with 6:34 to play.
16-2: Laker run that then put the game out of reach.
57: Lakers' field-goal percentage.
12: Blocked shots by the Lakers (led by Horry and Jones with four each).
* LOOKING FOR OFFENSE: George Karl didn't give up on Dale Ellis, even if the 37-year-old had disappeared in the first two games. C6
* STILL NO KOBE: Bryant sat out a second consecutive game because of flu, and the illness probably will limit his play in Game 4. C7
* CONSTANT CONCERN: Karl knows Shaquille O'Neal will get his 30 and 12. It's how he gets them that worries the Seattle coach. C7