Eddie Jones answered his critics - most notably Isaiah Rider - with his play, not his mouth.
And now, according to Rider, the Portland Trail Blazers need a miracle.The soft-spoken Jones, accused of disappearing in the playoffs, scored a playoff career-high 21 points Sunday as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Blazers 108-99 for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 first-round series, which resumes Tuesday night in Portland.
Rider said before the playoffs that he would get the better of Jones in their matchup, and he was correct in the opener, outscoring Jones 25-14 although Jones blocked six shots as the Lakers won 104-102.
In Game 2, Rider led the Blazers with 24 points, but most of them came after the Lakers had taken command. And at one point in the third quarter, Jones had outscored Rider 20-9.
"The guys saw I was active, going to the basket a lot," Jones said. "They gave me the ball. I just need to take my shots when I get them. It was important for me to be aggressive."
When asked about his critics, Jones replied, "I could care less what people think. My whole life, people have said a lot of negative things - Eddie can't do this, Eddie can't do that.
"I know how to play this game. I have a hell of a lot of pride. I thought I played a great basketball game (in Game 1), I thought I did a great job defensively. I can't get down on myself if the shots aren't falling."
Rick Fox led the Lakers with a playoff career-high 24 points. Shaquille O'Neal had 19 points and nine rebounds and Robert Horry added 15 points.
"My guys made me look good," O'Neal said. "Eddie and Elden (Campbell) played great."
Campbell had 10 points - all in the second quarter. Derek Fisher also had 10 points and seven assists.
Damon Stoudamire had 17 points and 14 assists and Brian Grant and Walt Williams each scored 15 for the Blazers.
The Blazers didn't attempt their first foul shots until 8:12 remained in the second period. By that time, the Lakers had taken 19. Portland finished 17-of-21 while Los Angeles was 34-of-52.
"Free throws are the difference, I think," Rider said. "If we get slapped three times in a row on the arm, and they come down and get slapped once and they call a foul, that's ridiculous.
"I got slapped, Rasheed (Wallace) got slapped, Brian Grant got slapped. You've got to call it both ways."
About his matchup with Jones, Rider said, "I'm not going to go outside my team to outdo anybody. The bottom line is wins and losses, the personal thing does not matter.
"I believe in miracles. Down two games to none, we need a miracle."
The Lakers went ahead for good in the final minute of the second quarter, and outscored the Blazers 35-23 in the third quarter to take an 89-75 lead into the final period.
Rider scored six straight points to cut the Los Angeles lead to seven points with 3:35 remaining, but that was as close as the Blazers would get.
Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy also pointed to the free throw differential.
"We must have reacted slowly because we committed so many fouls," he said, tongue-in-cheek. "I thought our guys were going hard to the basket, too. They just had great timing today. They blocked everything, and we fouled everything."
KNICKS 96, HEAT 86: With a burst of emotion and a balanced attack that was missing in Game 1, the New York Knicks landed a counterpunch Sunday against the Miami Heat.
John Starks scored 25 points, Allan Houston had 24 and Larry Johnson 22 as the Knicks rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Heat and even their best-of-5 series at 1-1.Terry Cummings, who didn't even play in Game 1, grabbed 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, and point guards Charlie Ward (seven assists) and Chris Childs (a clinching late 3-pointer) combined to shut down Tim Hardaway, holding him to 15 points on 4-for-15 shooting to prevent a repeat of his 34-point performance in Game 1.
Game 3 will be Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, where the Heat's career record is 3-22.
The Knicks, outscored 33-3 from 3-point range in Game 1, this time went 7-for-15 to Miami's 5-for-19. New York rallied in the second period by hitting four consecutive 3-pointers - two each by Starks and Houston.
The playoff victory was New York's first since 1984 without Patrick Ewing, who again watched from the bench in street clothes.
It was another bruising but clean game between two of the NBA's most bitter rivals. The biggest difference this time was the passion shown by the aging Knicks, who pumped their fists, bumped their chests and jumped around like youngsters as they pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Childs even drew an imaginary knife across his throat after hitting a 3-pointer with 1:52 left for an eight-point lead.
The New York bench outscored Miami's 36-10.
BULLS 96, NETS 91: It was another shaky finish for the Chicago Bulls, yet still another playoff victory over the New Jersey Nets.
Michael Jordan scored 32 points, Toni Kukoc added 19 and Dennis Rodman had 16 rebounds as the Bulls beat the sick and sore Nets to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
The Bulls, who squandered a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in the series opener, nearly blew a 21-point lead this time. Sherman Douglas hit a 3-pointer to make it 94-91 late in the fourth, but Scottie Pippen then hit two free throws with 14 seconds left as the Bulls hung on.
It wasn't quite as unsettling a victory as Friday's, when the Bulls needed overtime to pull out a three-point victory over a team whose leading scorers, Keith Van Horn and Sam Cassell, were sick and injured.
Van Horn and Cassell were not factors again Sunday. But Douglas, Kerry Kittles and Jayson Williams, who was playing with a broken thumb, nonetheless attacked the two-time defending champions with a fervor.
Kittles, who shot 3-for-17 in the opener, had nine points in an 11-2 burst - including one basket on a backward alley-oop lob from Douglas - and New Jersey trailed by just 11 after three quarters.
The Nets cut the lead to seven early in the fourth before Steve Kerr hit a 3-pointer, made a steal and Kukoc hit a pair of baskets to run the lead back to 14.
But the Bulls could not put the Nets away.
Van Horn, recovering from the flu and slowed by foul problems, made a basket with 22 seconds left to pull New Jersey within five. After Jordan missed one of two free throws for the second time in the final half-minute, Douglas hit his 3-pointer.
Kittles scored 23, Douglas 20 and Williams had 11 rebounds - 10 fewer than Friday - to go with 10 points.