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Lakers History: The 15-Point, 4th-Quarter Comeback in Game 7
One way or another, it was going to be one of the craziest comebacks in NBA history.
After falling behind 3-1 in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Portland had rallied to force Game 7, which it led by 15 with only 10:28 remaining.
The Lakers — who hadn’t lost three straight games all season — were suddenly on the brink of becoming just the then-seventh team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead.
The Trail Blazers had done an excellent job of denying the ball to regular-season MVP Shaquille O’Neal and instantly double-teaming him when he did catch it. Shaq entered the fourth quarter with only nine points.
But the Lakers’ offense awoke with elimination on the horizon. Brian Shaw hit a few enormous 3-pointers, including one from a double-teamed O’Neal, who finished with 19 points and five assists.
Meanwhile, the Blazers had gone silent, missing 12 straight shots at one point. Much of this had to do with the dominance of a 21-year-old Kobe Bryant, who shut down whichever guard he was covering.
Both Kobe and Shaq found their groove late, with the latter banking in a turnaround hook shot to give the Lakers a brief lead with two minutes left.
A gasping Portland side managed to tie the game before Bryant took it over.
First, he regained the lead with a couple of free throws. Then he put a bucket between the eyes of one of the greatest defensive players of all-time.
With just over a minute left, Bryant danced with Scottie Pippen, used an inside-out dribble to shake him off, and rose up for a well-contested jumper that still fell through.
All that was left was one of the most iconic moments in franchise history.
Bryant sized up Pippen yet again and dusted him with a crossover. Then he lobbed the ball to O’Neal, who seemingly grazed the STAPLES Center ceiling to grab it.
Shaq brought the ball down with thunder, rocking the crowd and cementing a six-point lead with 40 seconds remaining.
“I thought I threw the ball too high,” Bryant told reporters. “Shaq went up and got it, I was like, ‘Damn!’”
Bryant concluded with 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks, ascending to true alpha status alongside O’Neal.
Having completed one of the greatest fourth-quarter comebacks in postseason history, the top-seeded Lakers’ 89-84 win booked their first trip to the Finals in nine years.
Soon after came an even sweeter prize: the first of three straight NBA titles.
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