Horry stuns the Kings:
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LOS ANGELES, May 26 (Ticker) -- Robert Horry may have saved the Los Angeles Lakers' season. Luck put the ball in Horry's hands. Championship experience took over from there

Horry's 3-pointer at the buzzer capped a comeback from a 24-point deficit and gave the Los Angeles Lakers a season-saving 100-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings that evened the Western Conference finals at two games each.

The two-time defending champion Lakers had fought back but still trailed, 99-97, after Vlade Divac made 1-of-2 free throws with 11 seconds left. They inbounded to Kobe Bryant, who drove right and went up for a shot that was challenged by the 7-foot Divac.

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Shaquille O'Neal got himself to the free throw line, and made all six of his attempts in the fourth.
Rocky Widner
NBAE/Getty Images
Bryant's miss was rebounded on the other side of the basket by Shaquille O'Neal, whose follow shot also was challenged by Divac and missed. The clock was winding down and Divac batted the ball away from the basket.

"I think I got a hand up in (O'Neal's) face and contributed to helping his miss," Kings forward Chris Webber said. "Vlade tipped the ball out, something at that time I probably would have done, all of us would've done, I'm sure."

"I'm next to Vlade, who is trying to tap the ball out -- doing the smartest thing possible -- and I look out and see Rob," Lakers forward Rick Fox said.

The ball bounded to the top of the 3-point circle to Horry, who gathered it and fired a shot over a charging Webber that banged in at the horn, sending the sellout crowd of 18,997 at the Staples Center into delirium.

"You cannot think in a situation like that," Horry said. "A lot of guys, when the ball is coming, sit there and look at the clock, then it makes you rush your shot. I was like, `If I don't get it off in time, we lose. If I do, it's money.' I was just worried about getting my form and getting my money shot down."

The shot stunned the Kings, who were a bounce of the ball away from pushing the Lakers to the brink of elimination.

"It's the luckiest thing I've ever seen in my life," Kings forward Hedo Turkoglu said. "Vlade hit the ball and it went straight into his hands and he was wide-open. The whole game, he was going for offensive boards, but at that moment he was waiting right there. You could never see this type of game in your life."

Even some of the Lakers admitted they were quite fortunate to have won. Their only other lead was 2-0, and they held it for all of 13 seconds.

"It was a blessed day for us," O'Neal said. "Thank God for Robert. Thank God his father met his mother, too."

"That's a victory from the jaws of defeat," coach Phil Jackson added. "That was an incredible finish. And I didn't draw it up like that, so don't ask me."

Webber had perhaps the best description.

"That was a lucky play, a fumble out of the inside to the outside," Webber said. "Now Horry shooting it wasn't lucky. That's a big shot. I have to give him credit. That's a big-time player, but that was a lucky play."

"A luck shot is one of those guys who has no form," Horry said. "If you look at the shot, it was straight form. He shouldn't have tipped it out there. It wasn't a luck shot. I have been doing that for all my career. He should know."

Horry is a member of four NBA championship teams. While with Houston, he matched the NBA Finals record with five 3-pointers in a quarter. Over the last two years with Los Angeles, he has made a game-clinching 3-pointer in four straight series.

The 6-10 forward made a dagger in Game 3 of the 2001 Finals against Philadelphia, won Game 3 of the first round at Portland and sealed Game 5 of the conference semifinals against San Antonio. But this one had some special meaning.

"It is top two," Horry said. "The one in Philly, the one in Portland, they are all great shots. It's like asking me which kid I love the best. You love them all."

"He's poised, he's calm and he has a steel will," Jackson said. "He's a player who doesn't fluster in critical situations. He's going to be under control and have his wits about him."

Horry's shot allowed the Lakers to keep their wits. Had they lost, they would have had to win three straight games against the only team that did not lose three in a row this season. Game 5 is Tuesday in Sacramento.

"I honestly believe we'll have enough resiliency to get back in that game," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We have to because now the momentum shifts. They had a huge win and I'm sure they're confident now, but we've got to respond, and I'm pretty sure I know the answer."

O'Neal had 27 points and 18 rebounds, Bryant scored 25 points and Horry added 18 and 14 boards for the Lakers, who pounded the offensive glass for 25 rebounds.

Divac scored 23 points, Mike Bibby added 21, Webber 20 and Turkoglu 18 and 12 boards for the Kings, who shot 49 percent (38-of-78) from the field.

The first quarter was an instant replay of Game Three, when the Kings quickly took control. This time, they shot 71 percent (15-of-21) and sped to a 40-20 lead behind 10 points apiece from Bibby and Divac.

A 3-pointer by Doug Christie extended the margin to 46-22 before LA began to fight back behind Bryant, who scored 13 points in the second period. The second 3-pointer of Samaki Walker's career beat the buzzer and pulled the Lakers within 65-51.

The Kings had their lead cut to 80-73 entering the final period, when Horry scored 11 points. His two free throws and 3-pointer made it 88-84 with 6:31 to go, and another 3-pointer answered a jumper by Turkoglu and pulled LA within 96-93 with 1:39 left.

Divac sank a long jumper with 1:17 to play, but Bryant threw in a floater in the lane. After Christie missed an open 3-pointer with 39 seconds to go, O'Neal drew a foul and made two free throws with 26 seconds left. He was 9-of-13 from the line, including 5-of-6 in the final period.

"Those were clutch baskets," Bryant said. "He always says he'll hit them when the money's on the line, and he did that tonight."

So did Horry.