LOS ANGELES -- The Pacers took a long look at the drawing board Thursday and found the same, mind-bending equation staring right back at them.
Shaquille O'Neal plus the Lakers equals trouble.
Stop him? Yeah, right. Make him work a little harder? Maybe.
''The man is a conquest in a sense,'' Pacers center-forward Sam Perkins said. ''I think he is bigger than any player I have ever played against, so you have to go against the odds and hope that he is fatigued a bit.''
In Game 1 Wednesday, O'Neal hardly looked tired. He torched the Pacers for 43 points and 19 rebounds in a dominating 44 minutes.
But the Pacers insist their first effort against O'Neal in the NBA Finals won't be the beginning of a trend, even though there are loud murmurs that Indiana just doesn't have the speed, size or depth to contend with the league MVP.
And that the successful double and triple teams used in the Western Conference Finals by Portland with huge Arvydas Sabonis, long and athletic Scottie Pippen, and longer and more athletic Rasheed Wallace won't work with the slighter, less-mobile Pacers in Game 2 Friday night at the Staples Center.
Rik Smits, often the focal point of criticism that Indiana is soft in the middle, said the Pacers must be more committed to surrounding O'Neal when he gets the ball.
''At times he threw the ball out of the post, then re-posted and was wide open,'' the Pacers center said. ''He got good position down low and he made us pay.''
Smits was overwhelmed by O'Neal, who often shot over an d through the slighter Smits on the way to the basket. Dale Davis, who said O'Neal is more like 350 pounds than the listed 325, didn't fare much better.
''As big and strong as he is, he still does a good job of using his body and getting his position down there,'' Davis said. ''As far as comparing him to anybody in today's game, I don't think you can.''
Another success Portland had was using Pippen to sag off Ron Harper to help on O'Neal. But Jalen Rose said he can't use the same tactics Pippen did without causing further damage to the Pacers.
''Scottie Pippen was able to have that kind of success of being a zone guy against Shaq because he was leaving Ron Harper,'' Rose said. ''I'm not guarding Ron Harper. I'm guarding Glen Rice. Glen Rice is not a guy you want to let shoot.''
It's not that O'Neal has traditionally eaten up the Pacers, either. In the two regular season meetings, he averaged 26.5 points, which was below his season average of 29.7 points.
But this is the Finals, and the Lakers are leaning on O'Neal more than ever.
''After the way Shaquille lit us up night, obviously we're going to try to be more aggressive,'' Pacers Coach Larry Bird said. ''The one thing I want us to adjust to is the way we have to play hard. We picked up two loose balls. It's us being aggressive. That's the adjustment we have to make.''
A little added aggression mixed in with a Reggie Miller upswing and possible Lakers letdown could make things closer. But O'Neal doesn't look like he's ready to take a day off anytime soon.
''We still feel like even though they have Shaq,'' Rose said, ''we have what it takes to win this series.''
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