O'Neal leads another Lakers team effort


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- During his pregame news conference, New Jersey Nets coach Byron Scott offered his thoughts on just how dominant Shaquille O'Neal really is.

"You could put him on the Memphis Grizzlies, and they'd probably be in the Finals," Scott said.

Of course, that comment didn't sit well with Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

"That," Jackson replied, "is mistaken type of generalities ... that you would say something like that."

Jackson explained that it takes time and teamwork to build a championship team. And in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Jackson's Lakers proved to Scott that the Lakers aren't just a one-Shaq team.

O'Neal had his usual monster game, but the Lakers' 106-103 victory at raucous Continental Airlines Arena on Sunday night was so much more than O'Neal's 35 points and 11 rebounds.

It was about Robert Horry sinking the clutch, go-ahead 3-pointer to give L.A. the lead for good at 98-96. It was about Kobe Bryant scoring a game-high 36 points and hitting two dagger-in the-heart jumpers in the final minutes to offset Jason Kidd's heroics. And it was about Rick Fox sinking the game-clinching free throws with 3.5 seconds left.

"That's just the experience of a team that has played five, six years together and won two championships," Horry said. "We just came out of a grueling series in Sacramento. We know how to take control and do the things we need to do to get a win."

"We're a confident team," Bryant said. "We're a confident bunch ... Hopefully, we'll win a third title."

The Lakers won their NBA Finals-record seventh straight game and can complete a sweep of the best-of-seven series in Game 4 on Wednesday in the Meadowlands. A victory would also move Jackson past Pat Riley for most coaching victories in NBA playoff history. Right now, both are tied with 155.

"There wasn't any sense of urgency that we're in trouble or that we were in any form or fashion going to panic," Jackson said. "We just knew that we had to go back to doing what we do well."

Kidd scored 11 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, which saw the Nets erase a 75-65 deficit in the third quarter to tie the game at 78-78 going into the fourth. Kenyon Martin added 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting.

Afterward, Scott laughed when asked about his pregame statement about O'Neal.

"I'm just trying to say how dominant he is," Scott said. "That's the bottom line. Shaq is the most dominant player that I've ever seen. I didn't really get a chance to see Wilt (Chamberlain) when he was at his best, but Wilt would give up 70-80 pounds to this guy."

For the first time in the series, the Lakers found themselves in a fight in the fourth quarter. The Nets scored the first six points of the period on two Kidd buckets and a Richard Jefferson dunk for an 84-78 lead. They pushed their lead to as much as seven twice, the last time at 94-87 on Martin's alley-oop slam over Fox.

That's when the Lakers showed why they've won the last two Larry O'Brien trophies. Los Angeles went on a 13-2 run to take a 100-96, Bryant capping the spurt with a 22-foot jumper over the outstretched hand of Martin. Kidd answered with a jump shot of his own to pull the Nets to two, but O'Neal hit a 13-foot bank shot falling away for a 102-98 edge.

Keith Van Horn's jumper made it 102-100 Lakers. Bryant, however, came through again with another difficult shot, this time slipping through a double team by Kidd and Kerry Kittles and rising over Kidd to bury a jumper in the lane and put L.A. up four again at 104-100.

"We just couldn't make shots when he had to down the stretch," said Kidd, who also had 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals. "If you want to be a champion, that's what you have to do. They did that."

Kidd sank a 3-pointer from the right corner to make things interesting with 5.2 seconds to play. But the Nets couldn't avoid their most demoralizing defeat of the series. Van Horn was forced to foul Fox, who took deep breaths before calmly sinking two free throws.

"We had the settling presence of being in this position before," Fox said. "We just looked at the clock and we started making plays."

"My guys are playing hard. We're playing together," O'Neal said. "We're focused and on the same page. We know what it takes."

It'll take a miracle for the Nets to win the franchise's first NBA title. No team in league history has overcome a 3-0 deficit.

"Nobody's done it," Kidd said, "so why not be the first?"

Joe Lago is the NBA editor for ESPN.com.