LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Q: Could you talk about what was supposed to be run on the last play in regulation that set up Kobe's shot and how well it actually went compared to what you drew up?
Jackson: You know, that's basically what we are trying to get accomplished. Luke made a double weave out of it, normally it could be done off a pass, too. But we wanted to clear Kobe and have him at the top of the floor shooting a shot. We also looked to try to get a quick look to see if we could get an early 2 and a couple seconds just in case but we were out of time-outs so it was almost an impossibility to foul, score come back and foul and get from the free throw line back on the court, so we took that risk.
Q: Can you explain your decision to go with Luke both in the first half and late in the game after not playing him for two games?
Jackson: Maybe sanity is the best excuse. I just needed somebody in there that could move the ball and had the ability to create things off the dribble, and Luke is a kid, a rookie, of course you always worry about them getting calls offensively, having things happen right for them. And then the other end of the floor that they don't get overmatched defensively. But he held his own and actually was the player of the game, really, for us tonight.
There wasn't enough time to get him in in the second half, I was wondering how long it was going to take me to get him in in the second half. Tex Winter was poking me behind me to get him back in the game and fortunately we did.
Q: The way Kobe's game was going the last few minutes of regulation, what was your confidence level of getting the ball in his hands and being able to deliver in that situation?
Jackson: Well, we always believe that Kobe can make miracle shots even when things are not going well for him. He got a little bit off kilter and out of character after a situation in which he thought he was fouled and came down the court and was angry, and just had an opportunity to tell him just to relax and get his mind straight again and take a deep breath, go back out there and feel centered so that he could make that shot and that was a great shot.
Q: You've seen a lot of Final games, where does this one rank as far as excitement is concerned?
Jackson: Well, that was right up there. It was like the energy fell out of our team, lost the momentum. I gave a lecture to the ballclub about the third quarter. We had everything going for us right in the third quarter except our execution. We didn't use the opportunities. We had to build on a lead that was a double-digit lead, and the Pistons came down, executed and got the game back on their end, the momentum calibration. We talked about that at the end of the game.
And to rebuild that momentum took us another, almost, half a quarter to get it back again so that we were back in order. It always felt like that game was a possibility for us to win. We just had to get in our right mindset. We got some things going positive for us and we're fortunate. I told them, God smiled on us tonight on that one.
Q: How much did you weigh in your mind the rest of the series versus just getting through tonight?
Malone: I didnít think about the rest of the series really. I just thought about this game right here. So, itís interesting because I could care less about another game happening. I just thought about this game right here. Itíll be alright. Itíll be alright.
Q: In every series, there is that defining moment that goes for the rest of the series. Could your shot at the end of regulation be that defining moment for the series?
Bryant: Maybe. It seemed to be that way every series that we've had so far. Hopefully this momentum will carry us throughout the remainder of the series.
Q: Were you surprised that Richard Hamilton was not guarding you as closely as he was? And also, what kind of adjustments did you make to their defense, given that they were double-teaming you for much of the first game?
Bryant: I felt like Richard was pretty close. I felt like he played good defense. I felt like he was pressuring me. He knew I wanted to go for the 3 and stayed up close to me. I just backed him up and rolled over him.
As far as their defense, I just attacked them, put them on their heels. I picked my spots. My teammates knocking down shots helped out a lot because they could not collapse on me as much as they did in the first game and really opened them up.
Q: How surprised were you that they didn't foul that last possession? And second of all, where would this shot rank in your personal ranking of incredible important shots of your career?
Bryant: As far as them not fouling, I was actually waiting for them to foul. I was trying to time it up, just waiting for my dribble, gauging the dribble and waiting for them to come in, so maybe I could get a four-point play or something like that.
As far as my professional career, this is probably the biggest shot I ever hit in my career, period. I have to put it second behind the shot that I hit to beat Rip in high school. (Laughter).
Q: How do you guys don't lose confidence? It seems that doesn't matter, you're down by six, under a minute to play, even your going to the foul line and making the shot; mentally, can you talk about this team?
O'Neal: Because we've been through a lot together and we've been in situations like this before. We know that a minute left, anything could happen. I got fouled and I think the free throw, I told the guys that we needed to stop and we've got to stop it and Kobe came down and hit a great shot.
Q: You've praised Luke Walton great all season. Talk about his performance tonight?
O'Neal: He's a great guy, rookie. It amazes me how he can give me the ball and guys that have been playing with me four, five, six years can't give me the ball. (Laughter).
Great guy. He got it about six, seven times to me. He's going to be a great player, a great player.
Q: How have you been able to stay sharp and fresh? You've got a couple minutes when you have played and you haven't played the last two games. How have you been able to stay mentally sharp?
Walton: We've been doing this all year. Coach, he makes sure in practice we work hard after the guys that play the majority of the minutes go home. We play two-on-two, three-on-three with the other bench players that don't get big minutes.
Q: Do you feel the jitters at all stepping on the court in the NBA Finals?
Walton: Yeah, of course. (Laughing).
I love stuff like this. I've always loved big games, and I was just hoping that I would get my chance and Coach gave me a chance tonight.
Q: They talk about visualization where you hope for something, you visualize it. No. 1, have you ever visualized yourself in this setting doing what you did? And did your coaches give you any warning that you were going to get minutes that you got tonight?
Walton: Yeah, I visualize all the time before every game I play. I visualize myself going in and doing things. When I'm on the sideline, I look what's going on and try to put myself in that situation, what would I do and if they run that play when I do get in.
What was the second part?
Q: Did your coaches?
Walton: Yeah, they told -- the assistants told me -- Coach was flirting with the idea of switching some matchups and they told me to be ready tonight because there was a chance I might get in.
Q: After the great second quarter that you had, you were an observer in the third quarter and Phil Jackson mentioned that Tex Winter kept saying, when are you going to put the kid back in? Were you anxious to get back in the game?
Walton: Yeah, I was very anxious to get back in. They were pressuring us, we were having trouble with the pressure, and, you know, I think the court vision I have, I like when teams pressure because it opens up passing lanes, so I was very anxious to get back in the game.
As soon as he called my name, I was sprinting to the scorer's table so they could send me in.
Q: Can you tell us about the last sequence of regulation when you did the exchange with Kobe? What was said and what you did?
Walton: Well, the play was for me to set it back for Fish. If he was open, give it to him and if not, Shaq was to hit me and I was supposed to give the ball to Kobe. They did a good job of denying Kobe, so I had a read with him. Kobe, did it again. He's amazing. I was nervous and, you know, once Kobe had the ball in his hand, it was just one-on-one, I knew there was a good chance that we were going to go into overtime.
Q: In the final sequence in the fourth quarter, did you instruct your players to foul Shaq if he caught the ball?
Brown: You mean the one Kobe made, the 3?
Brown: (Laughter) Yeah, we talked about it, but I didn't think they were going to throw it to him. We talked about switching everything because they needed a 3, we switched out and kind of backed off. Kobe made a great shot.
You know, Shaq's offensive rebound, I thought the possession before that, three-point play was the biggest one. It's hard to foul a guy before he shoots an offensive rebound, but Kobe made a great shot. We defended it, we switched. A great player made a great shot. We didn't handle the clock great. I thought we might have shot a little quick and took kind of a half-ass shot, but that was critical.
But give them credit. They made huge plays and got in overtime and we just kind of lost our poise.
Q: Kobe put the ball on the floor twice before he took the shot and he gave every chance in the world to have that foul.
Brown: We don't foul in a situation like that. He's going to go up and shoot it anyway. We were off, we switched. Usually when we switch, we try to take something away, but, you know, that wasn't the situation we talked about. We just wanted to switch out and get a hand up and be aggressive. Our switch was there, but we just kind of backed off a little bit and he made a great shot.
Q: What's the mindset right now in the locker room? You were always trying to tell them positive things, to your players, what did you tell them and how did you sense losing that way?
Brown: You know, we're crushed. I mean, shoot, that was -- we had a winnable game. And everybody's in that locker room down. But, you know, we lost triple overtime to New Jersey, had to go up there and win 6 and 7. We talk about that. You know, we've just got to bounce back. We came here, should have won two games, you know, gave ourselves a hell of a chance. I was so proud, you know, we were out of the game, came back in the game and got control.
But we've lost a lot of games like this this year. We forget time and score. Hopefully you learn from these things. But we are 1-1. They were well prepared. Their defense was great. Luke Walton I think was phenomenal tonight. He came in and gave them a huge lift. And they did some really neat things as a team and got a win out of this.
So, give them their due. Are you allowed to give people due in this thing? Are you allowed to tell a team that they won a game?
So, they won the game.
Billups: It was a huge shot. It was a big shot. He's been known to do things like that, make big shots. You know, we could have played that a little differently, which we talked about, but we didn't. This is the NBA. That's how the ball bounces sometimes.
But we go into overtime, and, you know, we just couldn't really find -- we couldn't keep going. We couldn't continue to hit shots. We ran a couple of the same plays and just couldn't get what we wanted out of it. They started to execute better and they stayed aggressive. I thought they took the momentum into overtime and we just could never get going.
Q: How do you come away from these two games? Do you feel like the Lakers had to kind of scramble just to get a split or do you feel as though your chance to really seize control of this series slipped away?
Billups: Oh, no. I definitely don't think our chance to grab hold of this slipped away. We had them on the ropes. There's no ifs, ands or buts. We had them on the ropes and they got out. They won this game, but I think we outplayed that team for three quarters, three quarters out of every game, we have outplayed their team. So I think we've got their -- we woke them up a little bit and they know this is going to be a dogfight. This is going to be a dogfight. We have to expect what they did. First game they said it was a fluke and whatnot. Today we came in and we didn't play as good, but we hung in there. We stayed within striking distance and kind of turned the game around and we had it. We had it to where we needed it. They made some big plays, made some big plays down the stretch.
But this is going to be a good, long series, man, and we're gearing up for that. I'm sure that they know that. We're here, man, we're going to try to win, too.
Q: Rip, on the shot by Kobe, did you feel like you were guarding about as well as you could in you looked like you were right up on him there.
Hamilton: Yeah, I think I could have been a little bit closer, but he's so good with the ball, you know, herky-jerky, you know what I mean. I just try to press up on him. I had a hand up and he just knocked down a tough shot.
Q: Rip, what about when he was dribbling the ball?
Hamilton: That was never a question that we was going to foul. We was going to try to play everybody straight up, switch on pick-and-rolls and things like that. It was never a question of whether we were going to foul or not.
Q: Guys, after all of the hoopla, the series is tied 1-1, you guys go home for three, how confident are you guys going back home?
Hamilton: We're still a confident team. It's tough to lose the way we lost tonight. We got one. We wish that we could have got two, but now it's time to go to our home court. We're going to take total advantage of that and play in front of our fans which we think are the best fans in the world and just come out and play.
Q: While you were standing right outside, Kobe made mention to the shot he hit to beat your team in high school, could you comment on that briefly and on your gamesmanship with him in this series.
Hamilton: I don't remember. Like I said, he hit a tough shot. Me and Kobe have been going at it for a long, long time. That wasn't the first big shot he made, you know, but he made it. It's tough to take it. It's tough when you have the lead going, especially late in the fourth. When he makes a big shot like that, you've got to give him credit, he makes big shots and he made one.
Q: How hard will it be to bounce back?
Wallace: Not hard at all. The way we played the first half and to have an effort like we did in the second half, it isnít hard to bounce back. We just need to put together a complete game like we did in the first game.
Q: Do you take confidence in the fact that you got a split leaving L.A.?
Wallace: I guess we have to live with it. We canít change it unless youíre going to put a couple more minutes back on the clock and let us play again. We have to live with it. Itíll be all right.
Q: You guys were a shot away from going home up 2-0, now you go home and its 1-1, talk about that?
Prince: Obviously, itís devastating for a situation like this to happen. One of the greatest winning players in the game made a shot that he does on a regular basis, so we canít hold our heads down about this one even though we should have won the basketball game. We gotta go back home and face a tough Laker steam that plays just as hard on the road as they do at home.