Michael Jordan may be playing golf these days, but his old buddies, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, already appear in mid-season form just a week into NBA season.
Pippen, one year and two teams removed from helping Jordan and Jackson win six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, looked sharp Saturday night in scoring 19 points and leading the Portland Trail Blazers to a 97-82 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jackson, the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, tore into the referees after they ejected Shaquille O'Neal with a second technical foul with 9:40 remaining in the game and the Lakers down 77-70.
"They were flagrantly fouling him and he simply puts the ball in the guy's chest after he got beat across the face, and they call him for a tech and run him out of the game. And it was a seven-point game at the time," Jackson said.
O'Neal, who led the Lakers with 21 points and 10 rebounds, left the dressing room minutes after the game ended and didn't speak to reporters.
Jackson said he was disappointed with O'Neal, too.
"I let him know how unhappy I was that he did not contain himself in the game," he said. "That's his responsibility. But anyone else gets hit like that and it is a flagrant foul."
Arvydas Sabonis went on a tear as soon as O'Neal left the game. After Greg Anthony mae the technical free throw, Sabonis scored Portland's next 11 points for an 89-72 lead with 4:45 remaining. He scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
"Sabas was in foul trouble, but when Shaq left, it was the right time to feature him in the offense," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said.
O'Neal twice got into a shoving match with Portland's Jermaine O'Neal, getting his first technical with 10:23 left in the game. Jermaine O'Neal also received a technical when the Lakers lost their center.
Pippen was satisfied with being a defender and playmaker during most of the second half after scoring 17 points in the first half, which ended with the Blazers leading 55-45 and the Lakers never got closer than seven points.
"I'm feeling very good health-wise and my defense is getting my offensive game going," Pippen said. "I've been trying to only take good looks and not force anything."
The Lakers were only 17-of-34 from the free throw line, while the Blazers missed only one of 21 attempts from the line.
Pippen's 12 points in the first quarter helped give the Blazers a 25-24 lead, but it was reserve Bonzi Wells' 12 points in the second quarter that put them in command.
Wells scored eight straight points during a two-minute stretch, putting the Blazers ahead 36-26 with 7:46 left in the quarter.
Pippen had 17 points, two steals and a blocked shot as Portland took a 55-45 halftime lead. His defense also helped keep Rice quiet, holding him to only five field goal attempts and six points.
Rice scored six points early in the third quarter and the Lakers cut Portland's lead to 63-57 on O'Neal's basket with 5:53 left in the third. But Stoudamire, who scored nine points in the quarter, made a three-point play in the waning seconds to give the Blazers a 76-64 lead entering the fourth.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed