Defending Robert Horry is like filing a tax return. It needs to be done, but more pressing matters invariably arise. There are distractions, a parade of reasons and opportunities to procrastinate just a little longer.

And then, with time running short, you pay.

He's been taking and making the big shots in the postseason since his back-to-back championship days in Houston, and he's doing it again this year, knocking down not one but two series-clinching three-pointers. Surely Horry has the deadliest 8.0-point scoring average in the 2002 playoffs.

As he has throughout his career, Horry has stepped up in the postseason.
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Horry's series-winner vs. Portland:
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First Round, Game 3 vs. Portland: With the Lakers down by two, Kobe Bryant draws everyone's attention with a drive to the hoop, then finds Horry spotted up in the corner all alone. The dish, the shot, Lakers take a one-point lead with 2.1 seconds on the clock. Series over.

After the game, Horry's description of the play was straight out of The Matrix.

"The guys on their bench were yelling and then all of a sudden everything slows down for you, and I shot it and made it."

Bryant was more philosphical.

"It's cash," he said. "He's done it so many times."

Conference Semifinals, Game 5 vs. San Antonio: The situation isn't quite as dramatic, but with L.A. up by four and a minute left, the win is by no means a lock. Out comes the exact same play. Bryant into the lane, Horry spotted up in the right corner, the dish, the shot, Lakers take seven-point lead with 56 seconds to play. Series over.

This is what the top-seeded Sacramento Kings have to contend with when the Western Conference Finals begin tomorrow at Arco Arena. Not just Shaquille O'Neal's size and power or Bryant's confident athleticism, but a bevy of three-point shooters who are just filthy from long distance. Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Brian Shaw are all dangerous, certainly, but thus far in the playoffs, none has delivered with Horry's impeccable timing or single-minded ruthlessness.

A reserve throughout the first round and into the second, Phil Jackson moved Horry into the starting lineup, supplanting Samaki Walker for the final three games against San Antonio. He responded by upping his averages a bit to 10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but the message was clear: Horry has been huge.

And though the real money has been his three-point shooting -- second on the team with a .409 percentage -- it's not just his offense. Horry has rebounded the ball as well -- ranking third on the team during the playoffs at 5.9 per game -- and is a solid defender, tying for the team lead in steals (2.38 per game) and occasionally drifting over from the weak side to block a shot.

It's a good bet, though not definite, that Horry will continue to start against the Kings, which means plenty of quality time with Chris Webber. C-Webb will likely get his 25 points (he played just one game against L.A. this year, scoring 24), but since Horry doesn't give up any size, he should be able to put a body on Webber down low and keep Sacramento's main man from going off.

Horry's advantage will come on the offensive end. Webber loves to play in the post and he could get frustrated chasing Horry around the perimeter while Kobe blazes through the lane or Shaq wreaks havoc inside. Leave Horry open, though, and those back-breaking, coffin-nailing, game-winning three-pointers will come.

Certain as taxes.