Horry, L.A. show Kings winning hand

Grabbing loose ball, his 3-pointer at buzzer gives Lakers 100-99 win

`I wanted the three all the way'

Down 24 in first half, L.A. rallies to even series at 2

Pro Basketball

May 27, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LOS ANGELES - The ball came to him like a bounce pass in a pre-game drill, into Robert Horry's warm hands, 24 feet from the rim. Catch and shoot, just like practice.

All Vlade Divac had wanted to do was kill the clock, get out of this hostile arena and live to tell about knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers twice in less than 48 hours on their home floor.

But when Divac, the Sacramento Kings' center, slapped the ball away from the basket with nothing but good intentions, one of the game's great playoff clutch shooters suddenly had Game 4 - not to mention the series - in his sights.

Catch, shoot, bedlam.

Horry sent the Staples Center into a real tizzy yesterday, hitting yet another three-pointer that won a game and drastically changing the tenor of the Western Conference finals.

This one came from the top of the key, with Chris Webber running out at him. All nylon, it gave the Lakers a startling, 100-99 victory that evened the best-of-seven-game series at 2-2. Just like that, a budding dynasty's sagging reputation was resurrected with one jump shot.

Before nearly 19,000 fans - who were in nearly as much disbelief as the people who left the FleetCenter in Boston on Saturday after the Celtics' comeback - the Lakers crawled out of a 24-point, second-quarter hole to catch the Kings at the buzzer.

They were in position to win after Divac converted only one of two free throws with 11.8 seconds left. Down 99-97, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant missed a driving runner. Shaquille O'Neal rebounded the miss, but a meek layup attempt came off the rim. Rather than try to corral the ball, Divac smacked it out to the worst possible place on the court, where Horry was spotting up.

"If you watched the whole play, I never moved," said Horry, who scored 18 points. "I wanted a three-pointer all the way. I didn't want a two to tie a game. After Kobe misses and the scramble underneath, Vlade hit it out and I'm like, `look what I got.' It was a rhythm shot. I got a hop and a skip."

Divac was somber in the interview room, saying: "I just knocked the ball out. I thought time would run out. Obviously, Horry was in right time, right position."

Bryant finished with 25 points and O'Neal had 27 points and 18 rebounds. Bryant kept the Lakers in the game when they looked out of it.

He scored at will in the second half and defended Mike Bibby for most of the last three quarters, chasing the Kings point guard to all corners of the court, trying to disrupt an offense that was draining the championship mettle out of the Lakers.

Game 5 is tomorrow night in Sacramento, where the Kings were 33-8 this season, the best home mark in the league.

Yesterday, quarter by quarter, the Lakers chipped away at the Kings, recovering from 20 points down in the opening quarter, 14 at halftime and seven points heading into the fourth.

They trimmed it to 88-84 with less than eight minutes remaining when Horry dropped in a three-pointer. Delirium took over the Staples Center, a genuine feeling from the fans that their team was nearly back.

But Webber rolled in a jump hook and hit an 18-footer, defiantly shaking his head as he ran downcourt.

When Hidayet Turkoglu blew by Bryant on the left baseline for a layup and Bibby dropped in yet another huge jumper from the left wing, all looked fine again for the Kings. They had an eight-point cushion with 4:36 remaining.

Facing an unthinkable proposition - an elimination game on a visiting floor - the Lakers looked like they wanted that challenge. They gave up 40 points in the first quarter for the second straight game, as the Kings moved the ball with precision and shot a remarkable 71.4 percent to take a 40-20 lead.

Bibby hit eight of 11 shots in the first half, but Samaki Walker's desperation three-pointer - which he released after the buzzer - cut the lead to 65-51 at halftime.

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