Sunday , Jun , 06 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Shaq off to fast start as Lakers lead at halftime of NBA Finals

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Shaquille O’Neal leads all scorers with
20 points to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 41-40 halftime edge over Detroit in
the opener of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant added 12 points for the Lakers, who are trying to capture their
fourth NBA championship in five years. Los Angeles, which was the second seed
in the Western Conference, is halfway there to improving to a perfect 10-0
mark as host in this season’s postseason.

Chauncey Billups tallied 11 first-half points for the Pistons, who
are appearing in the finals for the first time since 1990 when they defeated
the Trail Blazers. Detroit was the third seed in the Eastern Conference
and is 11-5 all-time in games played in the NBA Finals.

The Lakers never led in the first quarter and trailed by as many as five at
20-15 with less than two minutes left.

However, O’Neal did his part in the opening 12 minutes with a game-high 11
points, including all eight of the first LA points.

Despite the dominance of O’Neal, the Lakers trailed 22-19 heading into the
second.

But the Lakers took their first lead of the game early in the second.
Stanislav Medvedenko made a pair of free throws 56 seconds in that put Los
Angeles ahead 23-22.

The game remained close and Bryant scored the half’s final points on a driving
layup through traffic with 19.9 seconds left to give them the 41-40 advantage.

Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who both came to Los Angeles this season in hopes
of winning their first championship ring, were held scoreless in the first
half.

This is a best-of-seven series with Game 2 scheduled for Tuesday at the
Staples Center. The championship round format, though, differs from the rest
of the postseason with the home team hosting the first two games, before going
on the road for three, not two.

This is the third time that the Lakers and Pistons are meeting in the NBA
Finals. In 1988, the Lakers defeated the Pistons in seven games to win the
title for the second consecutive season. In 1989, Detroit won the first of its
two championships as it swept the Lakers.

During the regular season, the teams split a pair of contests. The Lakers beat
the Pistons, 94-89, at the Staples Center, while Detroit knocked off LA,
106-96, at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

DET LAL