Shaquille O’Neal didn’t have any shortage of downright dominant performances throughout his time with the Los Angeles Lakers and in the NBA as a whole, and he had one of his greatest when L.A. knocked off the New Jersey Nets behind 50 points from O’Neal on April 2, 1998.
O’Neal gave fans a sneak preview of the destruction he would wreak upon New Jersey four years later in the 2002 NBA Finals, running roughshod all over the Nets to finish with 50 points on 18-for-26 shooting to go with nine rebounds, two assists and one block and steal apiece.
The Nets never had a chance with the overmatched Rony Seikaly manning the pivot, as O’Neal not only destroyed him on offense, but also held him to eight points on 2-for-5 shooting while drawing five fouls to limit Seikaly to 17 minutes in the contest.
Chris Gatling managed to acquit himself a bit better in Seikaly’s stead, scoring 14 points in 28 minutes on 4-of-11 shooting. But his meager scoring wasn’t enough to make up for his role in allowing O’Neal’s explosion.
Sam Cassell led the Nets in scoring with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting, but he was outproduced by a Lakers reserve named Kobe Bryant, who hadn’t yet declared himself a future Hall of Famer with his play and was just a productive young role player at the time. Bryant dropped 20 points in 25 minutes off of the bench.
Nick Van Exel came off the bench alongside Bryant to help supplement O’Neal’s scoring, scoring 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting to go with six assists. Elden Campbell also gave Los Angeles good minutes, contributing 10 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes.
But it was still O’Neal’s big night that turned the game into a laugher, as the seven-footer’s huge scoring night allowed the Lakers to have an easy 117-106 win despite New Jersey outscoring them 36-24 over in the fourth quarter.
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