Accused of disappearing in past playoffs, Eddie Jones is certainly visible these days. It's the Seattle SuperSonics who are about to vanish.
Jones produced a career playoff-high for the third straight game Sunday, scoring 32 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Sonics 112-100.The Lakers have won all three of those games to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series.
"It's about being more aggressive," said Jones, who was put on the defensive before the playoffs started when Portland's Isaiah Rider said he would get the better of the two in a first-round series, something that didn't happen.
"I'm being more active, I'm attacking the basket, I'm being a little more selfish," Jones said.
"I'm really, really unselfish," he said. "I've always had a point guard my entire career saying, `Your shot, your shot.' I always try to make the extra play for someone else. Sometimes, it kills my offense."
Right now, the fourth-year pro is killing the Sonics, along with Shaquille O'Neal, who led the Lakers with 39 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots.
"When you double-team Shaq, somebody's going to have a shot," said Seattle's Hersey Hawkins, who had 15 points and seven rebounds. "(Jones) was knocking the 3s down, penetrating the weak side and getting to the hole. They seem to be looking for him on the weak side, and he's making us pay every time."
The Lakers can clinch the series with a win Tuesday night in Seattle, where the teams split the first two games.
A sixth game, if necessary, will be played Thursday night at the Forum, with a seventh game, if needed, Saturday in Seattle.
"We've just got to come back in Game 5 and hopefully change the tide," said Gary Payton, who led the Sonics with 31 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists, but was held to 11 points in the second half.
To come back, the Sonics will have to do a better job containing O'Neal and Jones.
O'Neal, 15-of-20 from the floor and 9-of-12 from the foul line, made a three-point play with 2:14 remaining to make it 106-95, and two foul shots with 58.7 seconds left to make it 108-98.
"If they didn't have (O'Neal) in the middle, it would probably be a different story right now," Payton said. "We're not matching up well with him right now, so that's something we've got to think about."
Jones made 12 of 21 shots from the field, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, and had four steals. He averaged 14.8 points in his first three seasons with the Lakers, but just 11.2 points in the playoffs.
He averaged 16.9 points this season and, with Sunday's performance, is averaging 18.0 points in eight playoff games. He had 23 points in his team's 92-68 victory at Seattle in Game 2, and 29 in a 119-103 win in Game 3.
"Eddie's been playing fabulously, shooting the ball well," O'Neal said. "Whatever he's eating, keep eating it."Robert Horry had 13 points and seven rebounds, and Nick Van Exel had 13 points and seven assists for the Lakers.
Detlef Schrempf added 25 points for the Sonics. Vin Baker had 12 points and six rebounds, but just two points and one rebound after the first quarter.
"I expect better from myself, but it's not happening right now," Baker said. "I'm not going to make any excuses about not having played in the playoffs before. That's an old excuse that I don't want to use."
The win was the 46th straight for the Lakers over the last two seasons when they've shot 50 percent or better from the floor. They were 43-of-80 in this game (53.8 percent).
Horry and Jones made 3-point shots to finish the third quarter, giving the Lakers a 90-80 lead - largest for either team to that point.
Van Exel made back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 98-83 with 8:21 left, and the Sonics were done, assured of their first three-game losing streak since December 1996.
PACERS 118, KNICKS 107 : At New York, call this one "Reggie Miller Kills The Knicks, Chapter III," with huge co-starring roles for Rik Smits and Mark Jackson.
Miller tormented New York again Sunday, making a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left in regulation and another 3-pointer with 1:28 left in overtime as the Indiana Pacers beat the Knicks to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 second-round series.
Miller finished with 38 points at Madison Square Garden, where he had great playoff performances in 1994 (25 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern finals) and 1995 (8 points in the final 8.9 seconds of Game 1 in the second round).
This time, he had some help.
Smits scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, almost single-handedly bringing the Pacers back from a late eight-point deficit, and Jackson scored five straight points in overtime as Indiana quickly took control.
Jackson finished with 16 points and 15 assists, while Allan Houston and John Starks led New York with 19 points apiece.
BULLS 94, HORNETS 80: At Charlotte, N.C., Michael Jordan wasn't terribly efficient. Scottie Pippen was. Both were too effective for the Charlotte Hornets.
With Jordan struggling much of the game to find his shooting touch, Pippen fought off back pain to spark a third-quarter surge that sent the Chicago Bulls past Charlotte.
The victory put the Bulls up 3-1 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal, and recent history indicates Chicago isn't likely to have any trouble finishing off the Hornets.
Jordan missed 15 of his first 25 field-goal attempts before heating up in the fourth quarter, after the outcome had been decided. He wound up with 31 points on 14-for-31 shooting.
It was Pippen, however, who fueled the decisive surge after appearing to injure his lower back early in the third quarter. He had six points, three assists and two steals in the quarter as Chicago stretched a four-point lead to 17. Pippen finished with 17 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals.