LOS ANGELES, June 6 (UPI) -- Shaquille O'Neal almost delivered a knockout blow in the opening round Wednesday night and even though the New Jersey Nets kept getting off the canvas, the big man was there at the end to make sure the Los Angeles Lakers won the opening game of the NBA Finals.
O'Neal sparked the Lakers to an early 23-point lead and then was the key ingredient in the late stages as Los Angeles held on to down the Nets, 99-94.
The Nets walked away from their first game ever in an NBA Finals feeling they could compete with the Lakers since New Jersey outscored Los Angeles in each of the last three quarters. But it was still a Lakers' win and leaves them needing just three more for their third straight league title.
O'Neal scored 35 points, including 10 of his team's first 23 and 11 of its last 20. He claimed 16 rebounds, blocked four shots, committed just two fouls and made 12 of 21 free throws.
"We started the game with the same intensity and focus we had at the end of the last series," said the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, referring to his team's comeback from a 3-2 deficit in the Western Conference finals against Sacramento.
"Then we kind of let it die down. But we just felt we had to get back to basics. We pounded the ball inside and let Shaquille take us home."
The Nets took heart that they climbed back in the game, closing to within three points at one stage in the fourth quarter.
"I don't think guys were nervous in the first quarter," said New Jersey's Kenyon Martin. "We just didn't make shots. You take away the first quarter and we were all right. We just dug too big a hole and couldn't get out of it.
"We played well for three quarters. I think that will gives us confidence for the second game."
Game 2 will be played Friday night in Los Angeles, after which the series will move to New Jersey for three games if needed.
New Jersey rallied behind Jason Kidd's triple double, the first in an NBA Finals in nine years. He had 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
USA shocks Portugal at World Cup
SUWON, South Korea, June 6 (UPI) -- The United States was overwhelming at the start Wednesday and Ireland was brilliant at the finish, leaving those two countries with much to celebrate and giving the World Cup an unexpected look.
In a tournament already filled with surprises, the Americans delivered a huge one on another humid evening in South Korea by registering three goals during the first 36 minutes in Suwon and then hanging on for a 3-2 victory over Portugal -- the fourth-ranked team in the tournament.
"I never imagined we would lose," Portugal coach Antonio Oliveira said.
A few hours later, Germany was on the verge of becoming the first team to qualify for the second round only to see Robbie Keane score in the final moments of stoppage time in Ibaraki to earn Ireland a 1-1 tie.
The Germans, therefore, have work remaining to clinch a second-round spot while Ireland dramatically improved its chances of advancing.
In the day's opening match, Russia scored a 2-0 win over Tunisia in a game that could have been much more one-sided.
Portugal came into the World Cup as a potential threat to go all the way. It scored more goals in European qualifying than any other team and won a group that included the Netherlands and Ireland. Of the teams competing in the event, Portugal trails only France, Brazil and Argentina in the world rankings.
But 36 minutes into Wednesday's match, the United States had a 3-0 lead. Although Portugal got a goal back before the end of the first half, and although American Jeff Agoos put the ball into his own net in the second, the Americans held on to put another dent in European soccer.
France, a decided favorite to repeat as World Cup champion, failed to score a goal in the opening match of the tournament in losing to Senegal last week. Croatia, the third place team four years ago, lost to Mexico. Poland was thoroughly beaten by South Korea. Belgium had to settle for a draw with Japan. And now Portugal has fallen to the United States.
John O'Brien put in a rebound in just the third minute to give the United States the lead and Portugal was further shocked when a cross by Landon Donovan hit the head of Portugal's Jorge Costa and slipped past goalkeeper Victor Baia for what was registerd as an own goal.
When Tony Sanneh's cross was headed in by Brian McBride, the Americans had a 3-0 lead.
Not since the first World Cup in 1930 had the United States scored three goals in a game and the Americans' win was their first over a European team in a World Cup in 52 years.
Although the United States played in the three previous World Cup tournaments, it had just one win to show for its efforts -- a victory over Colombia on home soil in 1994 that led to a second-round appearance. Four years ago, however, the Americans did not earn a point and finished last in the tournament.
With the second round now in sight, the United States will take on South Korea next Monday with the winner virtually certain to move on to the next round. Even a loss would not doom the Americans' chances since they would still have an opportunity to pick up three points against a Polish team that looked ordinary against South Korea.
Driskill pitches Orioles past Yankees
NEW YORK, June 6 (UPI) -- Rookie Travis Driskill gave up three runs over a career-high 7 2/3 innings Wednesday night as the Baltimore Orioles defeated the New York Yankees for the second time in three nights, 4-3.
Driskill (3-0), a 30-year-old righthander who signed as a minor league free agent in November, gave up seven hits while walking two and striking out six in his third major league start.
A native of Nebraska and product of Texas Tech, Driskill carried a shutout into the fifth inning before settling for a win in his Yankee Stadium debut.
Tony Batista hit a solo homer in the sixth inning and Jerry Hairston Jr. provided the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh as Baltimore picked up its second 4-3 win in the four-game series.
The Orioles (27-30) began the night 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees for second place in the American League East. With its fourth loss in its last six contests, New York slipped three games behind first-place Boston.
Other American League results: Tampa Bay 8, Toronto 6; Boston 11, Detroit 0; Cleveland 6, Minnesota 4; Chicago 6, Kansas City 1; Seattle 5, Oakland 0.
Bonds moves up on home run list
SAN DIEGO, June 6 (UPI) -- Barry Bonds belted career home run No. 587 Wednesday, a towering third-inning grand slam that traveled 482 feet, as the San Francisco Giants crushed the San Diego Padres, 12-2.
Bonds moved past Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson with his 20th homer of the season and trails greats Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron on the all-time list. He is 73 behind Mays, who is his godfather.
The homer, which hit the base of the scoreboard in right field, is the longest hit in Qualcomm Stadium since distances were first recorded in 1988.
Ryan Jensen (5-5) snapped a personal four-game losing streak, allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings with two walks and three strikeouts.
Other National League results: Colorado 8, Los Angeles 6; Atlanta 6, New York 4; Florida 2, Philadelphia 1; Montreal 3, Pittsburgh 1; Chicago 5, Milwaukee 1 in 10 innings. The St. Louis-Cincinnati game was rained out.
Rain postpones play at French Open
PARIS, June 6 (UPI) -- Heavy rain suspended play Wednesday at the French Open, forcing three men's quarterfinal matches and the women's semifinal matches to be played today.
No. 11 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain was leading fourth-seeded Andre Agassi of the United States, 6-3, 1-0 in the first men's quarterfinal match when play was suspended. Ferrero had a 5-2 lead in the first set when a storm first delayed the match for nearly five hours.
With a forecast of rain for the rest of the day, the match was resumed briefly and Ferrero closed out the first set and took the lead in the second before play was suspended for good.
When play begins today, Spain's Alex Corretja and Romania's Andrei Pavel will continue their quarterfinal match, which was suspended Tuesday due to darkness with Corretja leading, 7-6, 7-5, 4-5. They never got on the court Wednesday.
The 18th-seeded Corretja won both previous matches against No. 22 Pavel.
The Corretja-Pavel match will be followed by the continuation of the Agassi-Ferrero match. The third match Thursday will be the men's quarterfinal between second seed Marat Safin of Russia and France's Sebastian Grosjean.
Ferrero was not affected by the drizzly conditions before play was interrupted for the first time, breaking Agassi's serve twice in taking a 5-2 lead.
But rain began to fall heavily, halting play for close to five hours. When play resumed, Agassi broke Ferrero's serve, but Ferrero broke back to win the first set.
Ferrero held serve to start the second set, before the match was postponed.
Red Wings seek to even series
DETROIT, June 6 (UPI) -- The heavily-favored Detroit Red Wings find themselves in an unexpected position one game deep into the Stanley Cup Finals.
The team with eight probable Hall of Famers and legendary coach Scotty Bowman will seek to draw even with the surprising Carolina Hurricanes when the finals resume with Game 2 tonight.
The Hurricanes have a probable Hall of Famer of their own in Ron Francis and he scored the overtime goal in Carolina's series-opening 3-2 win Tuesday night.
The 39-year-old Francis has recorded 514 goals and 1,187 assists in a 21-year career and was a member of two Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But now Francis, who started his career with the Hartford Whalers-turned-Hurricanes, is back with his original franchise and leading Carolina on an improbable run.
The goal was Francis' fifth in three finals appearances and second game-winning tally. Francis scored the deciding goal in Game 4 of the 1992 Finals, giving the Penguins their second straight championship. Coincidentally, that goal was scored against current Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek, who then was the backup goalie for Chicago.
Magic Johnson among new Hall of Fame members
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., June 6 (UPI) -- On the day the Los Angeles Lakers began another bid for an NBA championship, perhaps their greatest player was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Magic Johnson, voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and who led the Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s, headlines the Class of 2002. The group also features Larry Brown, Lute Olson and Kay Yow and the late Croatian star Drazen Petrovic.
The world famous Harlem Globetrotters became the first team elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame since the New York Rens in 1963.
Johnson and the Globetrotters were elected in their first year of eligibility. Brown and Yow were finalists last year; Olson has been a finalist the last two years, and Petrovic was a finalist three other times.
Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election.
The Class of 2002 will be enshrined on Sept. 27 in Springfield, Mass., the day before the $103-million Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame opens.
Rangers set to hire Trottier
NEW YORK, June 6 (UPI) -- Hall of Fame center Bryan Trottier, perhaps the greatest New York Islander in franchise history, is apparently set to become coach of the New York Rangers.
The New York Post reported that Trottier, an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche for the last four years, had accepted an offer by Rangers general manager Glen Sather to become coach.
The team scheduled a news conference today at 2 p.m. EDT.
The Washington Capitals, the only other NHL team with a coaching vacancy, were also interested in Trottier, who has just one year of head coaching experience with Portland of the American Hockey League in 1997-98.
According to the Post, Sather and Trottier have been in conference throughout the playoffs. Colorado was eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals last Friday.
The 45-year-old Trottier pestered the Rangers as a star player with the Islanders, leading them to four straight Stanley Cup titles from 1980-83. He earned two more Stanley Cups as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990s.
Trottier recorded 524 goals and 901 assists for 1,425 points in an 18-year career with the Islanders and Pittsburgh.
War Emblem draws No. 10 post
ELMONT, N.Y., June 6 (UPI) -- War Emblem will have plenty of company in his run at horse racing's most coveted prize.
A dozen horses were entered Wednesday for Saturday's 134th Belmont Stakes, where War Emblem will try to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history.
A 20-1 long shot when he won the Kentucky Derby, War Emblem drew the No. 10 post and was installed as the even-money favorite for the grueling 1 1/2-mile race at Belmont Park.
Proud Citizen, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, is second in the morning line at 5-1 and will break alongside War Emblem in the No. 9 post.
Peter Pan Stakes winner Sunday Break drew the No. 5 post and is third on the morning line at 6-1.
Baffert has welcomed all challengers, but a large field has been a disadvantage. In the 11 Belmont Stakes that have produced a Triple Crown winner, the average field has been a mere 5.4 horses.
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