L.A. Lakers 112, Sacramento 106 (OT)
SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 2 (Ticker) --
The Kings are dead. Long live the kings.
The Los Angeles Lakers put an historical stamp on their dynasty,
outlasting the Sacramento Kings, 112-106, in a Game 7
overtime thriller that capped a classic Western Conference
, Kobe Bryant
and the rest of the Lakers again
are headed to the NBA Finals, where they will be overwhelming
favorites to win their third straight title against the upstart
New Jersey Nets. The series begins Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Shaq rose above the Kings late, tallying 35 points and 13 boards.
"This is a great feeling, because we were able to fight back,"
Bryant said. "The Kings were playing better basketball than us
and we were able to fight back and that makes it feel great."
"The Kings were the better team tonight, they deserved to win,
but somehow we did," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who won his
23rd straight playoff series.
The Lakers never had been challenged like this. They were a
second away from a 3-1 deficit until Robert Horry won Game 4
with a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Even after winning Game 6,
they came here knowing that no Lakers team had ever won a Game
7 on the road.
"They humbled us in a lot of ways," Lakers forward Rick Fox
"They played us well all season, they played us well during they
series, they thought it was their time," O'Neal said. "But it
O'Neal and Bryant showed that they have the determination to
match their talent. Both played to the point of exhaustion,
with O'Neal collecting 35 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in
50 minutes and Bryant added 30, 10 and seven assists while
sitting just scant seconds in the second quarter.
The superstars got some help, too. Starters Fox, Robert Horry
and Derek Fisher -- all part of the Lakers' last two title teams
-- each scored in double figures.
The Lakers trailed in the final minute of regulation and with
less than two minutes to go in overtime. O'Neal tied it,
108-108, on a baseline jumper with 1:51 left, then added a pair
of clutch free throws 27 seconds later that marked the beginning
of the end for the Kings.
In the final 90 seconds, Sacramento missed three shots and
committed two turnovers as Los Angeles dug in on defense.
Meanwhile, Derek Fisher and Bryant each made a pair of free
throws, allowing the Lakers finally to relax.
"It shows our character, to fight through adversity," Bryant
said. "When we were down, nobody hung their head, that's what
impressed me the most."
The first Game 7 overtime in conference finals history had a
bitter ending for the Kings, who battled all season to claim
the home-court advantage for this situation. They became the
first team in 20 years to lose a seventh game of the conference
finals on its home floor.
"I can't say enough about how proud I am of this group and the
way they approached this series and the games," Kings coach Rick
Adelman said. "I guess our time has to come at another time."
Looking back, the Kings will regret their poor shooting from
both lines. They made a Shaq-like 16-of-30 free throws and sank
just 2-of-20 3-pointers. But those misses did not hurt as much
as the missing experience in games like this.
"We were in control of the game the whole game," Kings forward
Chris Webber said. "Even when they had a six- or seven-point
lead, I just felt like we had a really good game."
"It hurts, it really hurts big," Sacramento guard Mike Bibby
said. "(But) we have many more years of this to come. We should
have closed it out when we could, but we have many more years
Bibby and Webber again were sensational. Bibby scored 29
points, 14 of them coming in the last three minutes of the
fourth quarter and overtime. Webber was smothered by
double-teams but still had 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight
"They are they champions and they are the best team until
somebody takes that away from them," Webber admitted. "They
accomplished what they wanted."
The game featured 16 ties and 19 lead changes. The Lakers took
an 81-78 lead with 9:06 left in the fourth quarter on a
3-pointer by Horry and nursed it for more than seven minutes.
Bibby made an 18-footer and two free throws around a basket by
O'Neal, then gave the Kings a 94-93 lead with another jumper at
the 1:42 mark. Horry drilled another shot from the arc, and
foul-plagued Vlade Divac tied it with a follow show with 1:12
"There were a few times when I dished it out, and the shot came
back to me," Bibby said. "I had the shots, so I took them."
Divac fouled out knocking over Bryant, who split the free throws
with 46 seconds to play. Bibby made a long jumper from the
right wing with 38 seconds remaining, but Bryant made two more
from the line, and when O'Neal rebounded Peja Stojakovic's
airball and was fouled with 10 seconds left, things looked bleak
But O'Neal, who was 11-of-15 from the line, missed the first
before making the second. On the next possession, Bibby was
fouled off the ball by Bryant and his free throws tied it,
100-100, with 8.2 seconds to go. O'Neal missed a jumper and
Bryant missed a tip before the horn.
"We were like boxers, just trying to stay in it for the win,"
Webber said. "We just didn't get the win."
Webber opened overtime with a jumper but was overpowered by
O'Neal for an inside hoop. Bibby got free for a layup off an
inbounds pass, but Fisher tied it again with a pair from the
line. Again, Bibby delivered, sticking a jumper for a 106-104
lead with 2:17 left.
After O'Neal's go-ahead free throws, Bibby missed a jumper and
O'Neal missed a dunk. But Hedo Turkoglu rushed a pass to Webber
into traffic that was broken up and grabbed by the Lakers with
48 seconds to go.
O'Neal missed a jump hook, giving the Kings yet another chance.
But Doug Christie capped a terrible game by failing to draw rim
on a wide-open 3-pointer, setting up Fisher's free throws with
14 seconds remaining. Bryant added two more after Webber missed
Horry had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Fox added 13, 14 and
seven assists. Fisher scored 13 points as the Lakers' starters
played all but 29 minutes.
Divac had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Bobby Jackson scored 12
points and Turkoglu 10 for the Kings. Christie made 2-of-11
shots and Stojakovic 3-of-12.
The Kings looked like the inexperienced team in the first
quarter, missing four free throws and committing silly turnovers
and fouls. They fell behind 20-13 before regrouping with eight
"Missing the free throws in the game really cost us," Adelman
Sacramento settled down, getting a boost from the bench play of
Jackson. He made a pair of jumpers to trigger a 10-2 burst that
gave the Kings a 49-44 lead with 1:39 to go in the second
quarter. O'Neal dunked and Bryant hit a 3-pointer to close it
to 54-52 at halftime.
Bryant attacked the basket but may have been overaggressive. He
scored 18 points -- matching O'Neal's total -- but needed 19
Webber threw a nifty bounce pass under a leaping O'Neal that led
to a layup by Divac, then hit a jumper to cap a 9-0 run that
gave Sacramento a 63-54 lead. But Divac left with his fourth
foul shortly thereafter, sparking an 11-3 burst that gave LA a
Sacramento held a 74-73 edge entering the fourth quarter.