Following a Game 5 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Los Angeles Lakers returned to Staples Center needing one more victory to close out the 2000 NBA Finals. The matchup resumed on June 19, 200, where the two teams traded blows in the early going of Game 6.
After a tightly-contested first quarter of play, the Pacers found themselves with a slim two-point advantage over the Lakers. The ensuing period was much of the same, as Indiana increased their lead to three points over Los Angeles and entered halftime leading by that same margin.
Trailing 56-53 at the start of the third quarter, the Lakers once again nearly matched shot-for-shot with the Pacers. But the deficit nevertheless grew to five points, meaning Los Angeles would need to piece together a strong effort on both sides of the court in the final 12 minutes of play to prevent a win-or-go home Game 7.
With their backs against the wall, the Lakers scored 37 points in the fourth quarter en route to their 12th championship in franchise history. It was their first title since 1988, and the first of what would be three consecutive titles from 2000-02.
Los Angeles, despite being outscored by the Pacers in three of four quarters, came away with the victory due in part to limiting mistakes. The Lakers tied the NBA Finals single-game record with only five turnovers in the deciding sixth contest.
Shaquille O’Neal led the way with a game-high 41 points and 12 rebounds in 47 minutes of action. He converted 19-of-32 field goal attempts and tallied four blocks on the defensive end as well.
O’Neal was named the unanimous Finals MVP, as he received all seven votes from a national media panel. In the six-game series, O’Neal averaged 38 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.7 blocks.
Furthermore, O’Neal became just the third player in NBA history to earn MVP honors for the regular season, All-Star Game and Finals in one season. He joined Willis Reed (1970) and Michael Jordan (1996).
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