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LAKERS beat Sixers for second straight NBA championship


PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ No team ever had a postseason quite like these Los Angeles Lakers, who won their second straight championship with relative ease to complete the best playoff run in NBA history.

Los Angeles defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 108-96 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, leaving the court to boos and taunts from the fans.

In Los Angeles, the Laker fans left home were dancing in the streets. Police reported a few rock- and bottle-throwing incidents, set fires and at least one arrest, but said it was nothing like the mayhem of last year's Laker victory celebration.

``This time is fun,'' series MVP Shaquille O'Neal said moments after Friday's victory. ``The first championship was just to get the monkey off my back. The rest are to stamp myself in history.''

With O'Neal leading the way, the Lakers finished the playoffs with a record of 15-1, the best ever, and became the first team to go through the playoffs undefeated on the road.

``The last 15-20 games, we just became a great team,'' O'Neal said. ``Kobe (Bryant) did a great job keeping everybody involved and everybody just shot the ball well. We played with a hunger.''

They also played with a dominance that was on display throughout the Western Conference playoffs and reappeared in the final two games against the 76ers.

In the clinching game, it wasn't just O'Neal, who had 29 points, and Bryant, who had 26: Derek Fisher made six of the Lakers' 12 3-pointers and scored 18 points, and Rick Fox scored 20, the final three coming with an alley-oop pass to O'Neal just before the final buzzer.

The victory ended a dramatic turnaround for a Lakers team plagued by a bitter and divisive internal feud earlier this season. They became the first team to go through the playoffs undefeated on the road and won 23 of their final 24 games.

Still, the 76ers kept Friday night's game from turning into a blowout.

Making one of their patented fourth-quarter comebacks, Philadelphia cut a 19-point deficit to seven with 1:13 left. But Fisher, as so many Lakers role players had done throughout the series, hit a 3-pointer to end the 76ers' hopes.

Allen Iverson left the game for good with 40.3 seconds left, getting a standing ovation and hearing chants of ``M-V-P'' from the fans who had hoped for the Sixers' first title in almost two decades.

The fans began with boos after the buzzer, but then defiantly chanted ``Let's Go Sixers'' as the Lakers left the court to safely receive their championship trophy.

Bryant jumped around exuberantly after the final buzzer, cradling the game ball while extending his other arm high in the air. O'Neal walked expressionlessly down the court before ending up in the arms of rookie Mark Madsen, while Bryant and Fox found Sixers coach Larry Brown and hugged him.

Iverson, who picked up three personal fouls and a technical foul in the first quarter, finished with 37 points on 14-for-32 shooting.

The series ended somewhat anticlimactically, given the way it began. The heavy underdog Sixers surprised the Lakers and the basketball world by winning Game 1 in overtime, but Los Angeles regained the momentum by holding off the Sixers in Games 2 and 3 and then winning Game 4 decisively.

The 76ers played a gritty, determined Game 5, but couldn't keep up with a team that methodically answered every run they made.

Coach Phil Jackson won his eighth title, one short of the NBA record for coaches held by Red Auerbach. Jackson has won his last 20 playoff series, also a record.

``This is surreal,'' he said.

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