Shaquille O’Neal was possibly the most dominant force that we have ever seen on an NBA court, and he was at the height of his power in the early 2000s. He was so dominant, in fact, that the Portland Trail Blazers sent him to the free throw line 25 times in one quarter of a playoff game in May 2000.
The Lakers were on the hunt for their first championship in 12 years in 2000, and they had defeated the Kings and Suns in the first two rounds of the playoffs in order to qualify for the Western Conference Finals. But in their way stood a Trail Blazers team full of veteran players who had lost just two games over the first two series of the postseason.
On This Day: Blazers Try The Hack-A-Shaq
23 years ago today, SHAQ attempted a playoff record 25 FTS in a single quarter during a win vs the Blazers!
Shaq: 41 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST, 5 BLK
Sabonis: 0 PTS, 1 REB, 2 AST, 0 BLK pic.twitter.com/0gMtOQTZHW
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 20, 2023
The series wound up being a 7-game epic, in which the Lakers wound up being victorious thanks to a 13-point comeback in the 4th quarter of the final game.
But it was during Game 1 that an NBA record was set, one that will likely never be broken.
Shaq was dominating in the first game between the two sides. The Lakers center had 29 points through the first 42 minutes of the game, and was putting Blazers defenders into a blender on seemingly every possession. Head coach Mike Dunleavy decided to try a new approach, having his players foul O’Neal every time he got the ball instead.
Portland was down by 13 with under 6 minutes left in Game 1 when the experiment started. The Lakers were never able to get into any offensive flow, as Blazers centers fouled O’Neal before any play could develop. They thought that his poor free throw shooting would ultimately result in fewer points for Los Angeles with less time eaten off of the clock.
Kobe Bryant to Shaq
📸 2000 NBA Finals pic.twitter.com/vzSVotaZAF
— Kobe Highlights & Motivation (@kobehighlight) January 10, 2023
The tactic would prove to be useful in spots in the future, but Shaq hit too many of his free throws that day to allow a comeback from Portland. O’Neal shot 25 free throws in the final quarter, 24 of which came after the 6-minute mark. He made 13 of the 25, which was enough to allow the Lakers to hold on for a 109-94 victory as the Blazers struggled offensively in the frame.
It was a last gasp attempt to contain the dominance of Shaquille O’Neal, something that teams around the NBA attempted to do in the following handful of years. But the Lakers would go on to win the first of three straight titles that year, and Shaq was still one of the most valuable players in the league despite his struggles from the line.
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