Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Detroit Pistons humiliate lackluster LA Lakers 88-68

REUTERS , AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant have teamed up to create some of the greatest NBA Finals moments in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Thursday night, they teamed up to help create one of the franchise's worst nights ever.

Richard Hamilton scored 31 points as the Detroit Pistons led from start to finish to humiliate the Lakers 88-68, giving the Pistons a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and the Lakers plenty to think about heading into Game Four tomorrow in Detroit.

"What it boiled down to is we didn't execute and we let them rush us into decisions," a sombre Bryant said.

The Lakers didn't execute much of anything in game three, with their two marquee players a combined 11-for-27 in one of the most lopsided Laker losses ever.

The Pistons scored the first eight points of the game and never trailed, holding the Lakers to the lowest number of points in franchise history since the advent of the shot clock. The Lakers had scored at least 70 points in 560 consecutive games.

O'Neal and Bryant were at the forefront of the loss, just as they have been for so many great Laker playoff moments.

Bryant had just one point in 22 minutes in the first half before finishing with 11, and O'Neal managed just 14 points -- and only two in the second half -- while playing in foul trouble for most of the game.

"They beat us to everything tonight, played a little bit better defense and we had a terrible third quarter," O'Neal admitted.

No other Laker managed to score in double figures in a game where the favored Lakers looked rattled right from the start.

With Karl Malone clearly hurting with an injured knee and Gary Payton also ineffective, the onus is on O'Neal and Bryant to get the job done to make sure the series goes back out west for games six and seven if necessary.

It is a responsibility that O'Neal can certainly live with.

"Once we dig deep down and pick it up, we can get right back in there," O'Neal said. "I think once we focus on the little things, we can get right back in it."

Bryant said: "Hopefully we'll use the next two days to heal up a little more, work on our execution a little bit and come back with a better effort."

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