INDIANAPOLIS -- Glen Rice could have picked a better time to vent his feelings about being left out of the Los Angeles Lakers offense.
A day after the Lakers' NBA Finals lead was cut in half by a loss to the Indiana Pacers, Rice said he should be playing more minutes and getting more shots as Los Angeles tries to stay focused on getting two more victories and a title.
The target of his ire was coach Phil Jackson, who has shown through his actions rather than his words he doesn't agree with Rice's assessment of his importance to the team.
''I'm not going to go to him,'' Rice said. ''I don't think anything's going to change. He's going to do what he's going to do. I've just got to be ready when I'm out there.''
Game 4 in the series is Wednesday night. The Pacers, who lost twice in Los Angeles before winning 100-91 on Sunday night, can tie the series with a victory at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Rice is angry about being benched by Jackson during critical parts of the finals, including most of the fourth quarter in Game 3. Jackson, who largely used defense-minded Rick Fox in Rice's place, apparently sees him as a defensive liability.
''I definitely think we would have had a better chance to win with me on the floor,'' Rice said. ''I really think I need to be in there for us to succeed. ... I'm trying to be as positive as I can. I'm not trying to be negative or be the bad apple in the bunch. I'm just asking to be involved a little more.''
Rice played just 27 minutes and had seven points -- none after halftime -- in Game 3. While Indiana said its defense was the reason for Rice's failures, Rice blames Jackson for benching him in the fourth quarters of the last two games.
''I have no comment for that,'' Jackson said when told of Rice's statements. ''That's the way he saw the game.''
Kobe Bryant's sprained left ankle likely will be well enough for him to play Wednesday night. But even if Bryant returns, the Lakers showed in Game 3 they need several options on offense besides Shaquille O'Neal to win.
Rather than treating the complaints as a distraction, his teammates appear to be rallying behind Rice, who scored 21 points in Game 2 with Bryant out.
''I was disappointed a little bit that our best shooter was on the bench,'' said O'Neal, who had 33 points in Game 3, but was harassed by double-teams. ''I think we need to give him more shots, bring him off a couple more screens. When he gets the ball, he needs to be very aggressive.''
Rice's role on the Lakers has diminished gradually this season. When he was acquired two years ago from Charlotte for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell, the Lakers thought his offensive explosiveness would provide the outside counterpoint to O'Neal's dominant inside game.
But Rice doesn't believe he fits well in the Lakers' triangle offense. His favorite shots -- quick jumpers taken off screens -- don't often arise in the scheme.
''I know I can score, but I try to work within the offense,'' Rice said. ''It's frustrating sometimes. If I'm involved, it's a much simpler game for us.''
Rice, who will be a free agent at season's end, wouldn't touch the subject Monday. When asked whether his exclusion from the game plan against Indiana would influence his decision to return to the Lakers, he was mum.
''I'm just going to try to complete this mission, and I'll go from there,'' Rice said. ''I don't want to be a distraction. These things can easily be worked out if we win a championship.''
While the Lakers struggled with egos, the Pacers took a day off and focused on tying the series. Indiana got 33 points from Reggie Miller and rediscovered the swagger they had during the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Miller and coach Larry Bird are also involved in a dispute, though it's much less serious. Bird is trying to convince Miller to spend less energy lobbying the officials and trash-talking his opponents. Miller says it's the only way he knows how to play.
''These are the finals, and this is the first time I've been here,'' Miller said. ''My emotions should be high. I've played like that my whole career.''
The Pacers also were pleased with their improved defensive effort against O'Neal. Bird used power forward Dale Davis as Indiana's primary defender against Shaq. Though Davis isn't nearly O'Neal's size, he is muscular, tough and clever enough to keep O'Neal at bay until the double-teams arrive.
''We pushed Shaq out of the block, we got better pressure on the ball, and we were quicker with the double-teams,'' Davis said. ''That's really all you can do against him. He'll still get a bunch of points anyway.''
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