Saddled with four fouls, Shaquille O'Neal wasn't going to watch the Lakers blow most of a 13-point lead without him.
O'Neal came off the bench just before Seattle whittled its deficit to three points midway through the fourth quarter and helped Los Angeles to a 119-103 victory Friday night.O'Neal had 30 points and 10 rebounds, Eddie Jones scored a career playoff-high 29 points and Nick Van Exel had 22 points as Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. The best-of-7 series resumes Sunday at the Forum.
The Sonics had their own triple threat. Detlef Schrempf scored 26 points, Gary Payton had 22 points and 13 assists and Vin Baker added 20 points and 12 rebounds, but it didn't keep them from losing big for a second straight game.
Los Angeles led by 13 points at the start of the fourth quarter and appeared to be on its way to a second straight blowout win. The Lakers won Game 2 by 24 points.
But the Sonics rallied with a 13-0 run that cut their deficit to 92-89 with 7:45 remaining. Dale Ellis hit two 3-pointers while O'Neal missed two free throws and Rick Fox of the Lakers turned the ball over in the stretch. Moments later, a basket by Ellis drew them within three.
Just before Ellis' basket, O'Neal scored on a putback of a miss by Jones, then hit two free throws that got the Lakers on their way again.
When he wasn't scoring himself, O'Neal found his teammates. Corie Blount dunked off O'Neal's pass inside that launched 12 straight points by the Lakers, boosting their lead to 110-93 with about 21/2 minutes left.
O'Neal completed two three-point plays in the spurt. He hit 10 of 20 free throws for the game.
The crowd, led by an animated Jack Nicholson, roared its approval as Seattle watched its comeback hopes disappear in a flurry of Lakers' points.
Neither team led by more five points in a tight first half that saw 12 ties and 11 lead changes. The Lakers opened a 56-51 halftime lead by scoring the final five points of the second quarter.
Their momentum continued into the third quarter, with O'Neal, Jones and Van Exel taking turns as the hot shooter. O'Neal's run of five straight points, followed by Jones' slam dunk and Horry's turnaround jumper gave the Lakers a 73-60 lead - a 13-point margin they would equal twice more in the quarter.