The Game: 2000 Finals, Game 4
The Series Situation: Los Angeles Lakers lead Indiana Pacers, 2-1
The Play: Kobe Bryant went from missing most of Game 2 and all of Game 3 with a sprained ankle to playing 47 of a possible 53 minutes and scoring 28 points as the Lakers beat the Pacers 120-118 in overtime in Indianapolis.
The Significance: It was everything great about Bryant in one place -- the physical toughness, the emotional determination, the craving the pressure, the coming attraction of his future Lakers life as the leader and, of course, the skill. Providing any productive minutes after struggling through the early days of the Finals, would have been valuable enough. But 21-year-old Bryant was at his best at the end, after Shaquille O'Neal fouled out. Bryant, playing on what he called a "throbbing" ankle, made a pair of straightaway jumpers and finally a reverse-layup putback to seal the win with 5.9 seconds left. It became the difference between a potential 2-2 series tie with another game next up in Indianapolis and the actual 3-1 lead for L.A. The first of three consecutive championships was close.
-- Scott Howard-Cooper
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