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Shaq Loses It, Lakers Follow

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It took about five minutes for the storm to blow through, and make everything else seem dull and irrelevant.

The game? Totally secondary.

After the thunder and the lightning, there wasn’t really anything left to study but the after-effects.

In the span of about five minutes, Shaquille O’Neal’s reaction to the Portland Trail Blazers’ rough fouls almost caused an on-court brawl, did cause him to draw two technical fouls and an ejection, and then caused Laker Coach Phil Jackson to blast the officials for letting it get so far.

Lots of collateral damage.

“I’m really disappointed in the refereeing tonight,” Jackson said Saturday after the Lakers’ 97-82 loss to Portland before 20,584 at the Rose Garden. “I thought they were awful . . .

"[To] let Shaq be attacked like that and then make him be the villain for that situation when these guys are jumping on his back and basically flagrantly fouling him . . . and then simply puts the ball in the guy’s chest after he beats him across the face and they call him for a tech, run him out of the game . . . “

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O’Neal, for his part, walked from the locker room to the team bus without comment.

It was Portland’s fourth consecutive victory to start the season, and the Lakers’ first defeat after two victories. The Trail Blazers played without forward Rasheed Wallace, nursing a groin injury.

The flare-up started early in the fourth quarter, when Portland’s Jermaine O’Neal (no relation) yanked Shaquille O’Neal’s right shoulder as he turned to the basket. A foul was called, Shaquille O’Neal shoved him back, and was whistled for his first technical.

“One of the fouls hurt his shoulder, and he was angry about that,” said Laker center John Salley. “He thought they were aiming for his right shoulder for a while. That’s what got him frustrated.”

Then, less than a minute of game-time later, with the Lakers having closed what had been a consistent double-digit deficit to 77-70, with 9:40 left in the game, Jermaine O’Neal thumped the Laker center again, and was whistled for another foul.

Shaquille O’Neal almost immediately answered by winging the basketball into the chest of Jermaine O’Neal, who, along with his teammates, made moves toward the Laker center.

After some chaos, Shaquille O’Neal was assessed his second, and disqualifying, technical, and, after a handshake from Jackson, he left the Rose Garden floor to boos.

Jackson said he wasn’t sure if Jermaine O’Neal’s fouls were any worse than those of the other Trail Blazer big men--Arvydas Sabonis, O’Neal, Joe Klein and Antonio Harvey committed 18 combined fouls, most of them against Shaquille O’Neal--but said he stood for his player.

“I just saw the way they were throwing bodies at him just to make sure that he wouldn’t score a basket,” Jackson said. “Anybody else that got hit like that would be a flagrant foul, it’s pretty obvious.

“They’re not playing the ball, all they’re trying to do is knock him out. He’s got a right to have a retaliation to his game for the way they’re playing against him.”

Jackson added that he wasn’t pleased that Shaquille O’Neal struck back in a way that got him ejected--and opened the gates for Portland to run away.

“After the game, I let him know how unhappy I was with the fact that he could not contain himself in the game,” Jackson said. “That’s his responsibility.

“It’s the responsibility of the referees to contain the ballgame. What did Portland do, send four guys out there to foul out of the ballgame?”

O’Neal scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds in his 33 minutes of action, and once he was gone, Portland re-inserted Sabonis and he led a surge that closed the game.

“It was a seven-point game at that time, and [O’Neal] was basically the force behind our game,” Jackson said.

Salley said that O’Neal was very upset after the game, both for the rough fouls and for getting himself ejected in a relatively big contest.

Did Salley think the Portland fouls were any rougher than the normal give-and-take on the low post that O’Neal endures?

“You know what I say to that? Much is expected from whom much is given,” Salley said. “I’ve told him that. He’s so talented and he’s so strong, people just expect him to take more than anybody else and handle it.”


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