L.A. Lakers 99, Detroit 91 (OT)
LOS ANGELES, June 8 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant
figured out the defense of
the Detroit Pistons, just in time to save the Los Angeles
Bryant buried a tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in
regulation, then took complete control of overtime as the Lakers
scrambled for an emotional 99-91 victory over the Pistons that
evened the NBA Finals at one game each.
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Unsung hero Luke Walton dished out eight assists in his first Finals game.
Nathaniel S. Butler
Again showing his outstanding clutch tendencies, Bryant
scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as
he pulled the Lakers from the brink of facing an obstacle no team had ever overcome.
Los Angeles was seconds from dropping the
first two games at home, and no team ever has won the title
after doing that.
With time running out on Los Angeles,
Bryant took a dribble step backward and let fly a 3-pointer over
that splashed through, tying the game at 89-89
and sending the STAPLES Center into pandemonium.
"I felt like Richard was pretty close," Bryant said. "I felt
like he was playing good defense. I felt like he was pressuring
me. He knew I wanted to go for the three and stayed up close
"We always believe that Kobe can make miracle shots, even when
things are not going well for him," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
In overtime, Bryant blew past the deflated Pistons, feeding
for a dunk, making a tough drive and tossing in
a running banker. O'Neal's dunk off a lob from unlikely hero
sealed it at 99-91 with 1:22 to go.
"We're crushed," Pistons coach Larry Brown
said. "I mean, shoot,
we had a winnable game."
In the Game 1 loss, Bryant made just 10-of-27 shots as he was
shadowed by Tayshaun Prince
. Afterward, he said he needed to
figure out the 6-9 Prince and the rest of Detroit's scheme.
"I just attacked them, put them on their heels," said Bryant,
who made 14-of-27 shots and handed out seven assists. "I picked
Bryant got some help from the Pistons, whose daunting defense
disappeared on the Lakers' last two possessions of regulation, allowing Los Angeles to erase a six-point deficit
in the final minute.
"We had them on the ropes," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups
"There's no ifs, ands or buts. We had them on the ropes and
they got out."
O'Neal battled late foul trouble to score 29 points, breaking
Michael Jordan's record of 20 consecutive 25-point games in the
Finals. Walton, who did not play in Game 1, sparked the
offense with seven points and eight assists.
"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," O'Neal said. "He got it about six, seven times to me."
Despite being let down by its defense, Detroit kept its guards
up. Billups had 27 points and nine assists as he lit
up Gary Payton
again and backcourt mate Hamilton added 26
The series shifts to Detroit for three games, beginning
Thursday. This is the 20th year of the 2-3-2 format, and no
team has swept the middle three games at home.
"Hopefully, this momentum will carry us throughout the remainder
of the series," Bryant said.
The Lakers may need it. The Pistons were nowhere near as
effective as they were in Game 1, falling behind by 11 points
midway through the third quarter. But Billups scored 16 points
in the period, cutting the deficit to 68-66.
With O'Neal on the bench with foul trouble, Detroit went inside.
triggered the offense from the low post,
setting up a jumper by Billups, a layup by Hamilton and a
reverse dunk by Ben Wallace
for an 81-77 lead with 3:07 left.
O'Neal returned but could not keep Ben Wallace off the boards.
He had a pair of follow shots around a jumper and two free
throws by Hamilton, pushing the lead to 89-83 with 47 seconds to
Bryant missed a 3-pointer but O'Neal grabbed the rebound. He
made a layup as he was inexplicably fouled by Ben Wallace, then
sank a huge free throw that made it a one-possession game with
35 seconds left.
"It's hard to foul a guy before he shoots an offensive rebound,"
Billups rushed a runner on the next possession, giving the
Lakers life. But before Bryant's shot, the Pistons had chances
to foul both O'Neal, an awful foul shooter, and Walton, a
rookie. They chose not to, and it cost them the game.
"I can just think about a four-point play (or) just fouling him
and put him on the line for three (foul shots)," Brown said. "I
thought about it. We talked about if they threw it inside, yeah
-- Shaq gets it, put him on the line."
"It looks like a no-brainer at times, and I know that we've had
more and more opportunities over the years and hesitated to do
it and often times felt like we made a mistake when we haven't,"
Walton's energy in the first half helped the Lakers open a 44-36
lead. But the news was not all good as Karl Malone
sprained MCL in his right knee, the same one he tore earlier
this season that forced him to miss 40 games.