- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

LOS ANGELES When the Los Angeles Lakers have needed a miracle, usually Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal provided one.
But after both players failed to deliver in the final 10 seconds of last night's pivotal Game 4 of the Western Conference finals with the Sacramento Kings, it was Robert Horry who waved the wand that gave the Lakers their most magical moment of the playoffs thus far.
Horry's 25-foot desperation jumper from the top of the key swished through the net with one-tenth of a second on the game clock to give the Lakers a 100-99 victory, deadlock the series and send the sold-out Staples Center (18,997) into frantic convulsions.
Horry's shot was necessary after both Bryant and O'Neal missed Bryant a driving layup and O'Neal a point-blank layup. But in the scramble for the rebound, the Kings' Vlade Divac tipped the ball to the perimeter and, to the Kings' chagrin, into Horry's hands.
With at least three Kings charging at him, Horry took care of business, ensuring that the series would at least return to Los Angeles on Friday for Game 6. Game 5 is tomorrow night in Sacramento.
The 6-foot-10-inch Horry, who scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, has developed an almost mythical reputation for hitting big shots, many of them 3-pointers at crucial times in games. Most recently he buried Portland in the Lakers' first round, three-game sweep of the Trail Blazers. It was a Horry 3-pointer with time running out in Game 3 of that series that moved the Lakers into the second round.
When asked what he was thinking when Divac tipped the ball to him, Horry had a simple answer.
"Nothing, nothing, nothing. You don't think," Horry said. "You just say, 'Hey, if I get this I'm going to shoot this and I'm going to knock it down.' Most guys when they think too much they miss shots."
Divac, whose team blew a 24-point lead, said Horry's shot wasn't special. In fact, Divac, who led the Kings with 23 points, latter called it "luck."
"Luck," said Horry, who finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. "He shouldn't have tipped it out there. He should know. I've been doing that all my career."
Horry may not have believed his shot was lucky, but the Kings' Chris Webber, who finished with 20 points, speculated that the play was not the one Lakers coach Phil Jackson drew up in the huddle during a timeout with 11.7 seconds left.
"Robert has made shots like that all his career," Webber said of Horry, who won two NBA titles with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and '95.
Said Jackson: "He [Horry] has a steel kind of will. He is a player that doesn't fluster in critical situations, so he is a player who is going to be under control and have his wits about him, line the ball up and shoot it the way he has been taught. He's played in pressure situations that have allowed him to do that."
The Kings led by eight points with less than four minutes left, but Horry pulled the Lakers within three with a 3-pointer with 1:39 left. After Bryant hit a layup, O'Neal hit two free throws to make it 98-97 with 26.9 seconds left.
The Lakers fouled Divac with 11.8 seconds to play, and he made one of two to set up the final frantic seconds.
The Lakers were on their way to the brink of elimination for the entire first half and much of the third quarter. The trailed 65-51 at the half.
For most of their last two games the exception being the second half of yesterday's game the Lakers have been reduced to a team that quickly dispenses with the intricate triangle offense and resorts to throwing the ball inside to O'Neal and then watching.
The Kings have countered this by swarming O'Neal, who in turn has thrown the ball back outside to his teammates. However, the way his teammates have been shooting the ball recently he might as well have been throwing it to Jack Nicholson courtside.
Just as they did in Game 3 on Friday night, the Kings got out quickly, and the Lakers appeared completely helpless during the onslaught.
Once again the Kings passed the ball around the perimeter until they found the best shot available. It didn't hurt matters much that the Lakers, who to a man swore they were salivating under their current state of duress, played matador defense as the Kings bolted to a 40-20 first-quarter lead.
In the process, the Kings connected on an astounding 15 of 21 shots from floor. The Lakers, on the other hand, struggled, making eight of 27 shots.
But after allowing 65 points in the first half, the Lakers clamped down the Kings and held them to 34 points in the second half.
Bryant, who finished with 25 points, limited Mike Bibby (21 points) to three points after halftime.
O'Neal led the Lakers with 27 points and 18 rebounds as the Lakers out-rebounded the Kings 56-42.
"They were very tough tonight on the boards," said Kings coach Rick Adelman, somewhat shocked that his team could lose a game after making 48.7 percent of its shots compared to the Lakers' 39.2 percent shooting. "But I don't think this game will have much of a carry over. It's now a three-game series and we've got at least two games at our place."


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