Work in Sports
Bryant's clutch jumper gives L.A. 2-0 series edge
Posted: Thursday May 11, 2000 11:12 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant said he felt like he was in his backyard, counting down the seconds.
"Ten, nine, eight," he said with a smile. "Everything was going in slow motion. It's a situation you dream about as a kid."
Some would say Bryant's still a kid at age 21, but he performed like a veteran down the stretch Wednesday night, making a 15-foot jumper over Jason Kidd with 2.6 seconds left to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 97-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
The basket, which Bryant called the biggest in his four-year career, at least so far, capped off a performance he acknowledged was below-par.
"I never got in the flow of the game, foul trouble kept me from getting me in synch with my teammates," said Bryant, who had 15 points, six assists and four rebounds along with five turnovers in 34 minutes. "They played harder tonight, they got to the loose balls, but we won."
Bryant's big basket was the first field goal for the Lakers since Shaquille O'Neal's three-point play with 4:31 left gave them a 91-86 lead.
The Suns went ahead 96-94 on Penny Hardaway's follow shot off a fast-break miss by Cliff Robinson with 46.8 seconds left, and Bryant made 1-of-2 free throws three seconds later to cut the Phoenix lead to one point.
O'Neal, who had 38 points, 20 rebounds and five blocked shots, swatted a runner by Hardaway in the lane to set the stage for Bryant, who took Jason Kidd one-on-one, and won.
"Kobe double-pumped and made a tough shot," Kidd said. "We didn't want him to get to the basket. I thought I played pretty good defense. You've got to give him credit."
Robinson led the Suns with a career playoff-high 30 points, and Hardaway, who missed a desperation shot as time expired, had 27 points and eight assists.
"It's disappointing, especially after fighting so hard in the fourth quarter to give us an opportunity to win the game," Robinson said. "We're feeling good about going home."
The best-of-seven series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3 on Friday night and Game 4 on Sunday.
Glen Rice added 13 for the Lakers and reserves Brian Shaw and Robert Horry had 12 each.
"I am a little disappointed in the players today," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They came out [in the fourth quarter] with a lot of energy and put the game in jeopardy, and we were lucky to pull it out.
"We probably did not deserve that win other than the fact that we were willing to play some defense."
Kidd, shrugging off a sore left ankle, played 43 minutes and had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Only seven teams in NBA history have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a series, and considering the Lakers are 6-0 against Phoenix this season and 18-3 in the last 21 games between the teams, the Suns' chances wouldn't appear very good.
However, the Suns certainly gave the favored Lakers all they could handle in Game 2.
"Nobody was really happy with the effort that we put forth tonight," O'Neal said. "But Kobe hit a fabulous shot, and we got lucky."
Robinson's two free throws with 1:05 to play tied the game at 94, and Hardaway's follow shot gave the Suns their first lead since early in the second quarter.
The Lakers led 74-65 entering the fourth period, but with Robinson leading the way, the Suns went on a 14-7 run to draw within two points.
O'Neal's basket and foul shot gave the Lakers a five-point lead, but then came the drought in which Los Angeles was limited to four free throws in being outscored by six points.
It was uncertain until game time whether Kidd, playing just his third game since breaking his left ankle March 22, would play because of soreness he experienced during and after Sunday's game, when he was mostly ineffective in 39 minutes.
He was much better Wednesday night.
"My ankle feels good, although tomorrow will be the key," he said. "I never favored it."
The Suns, who used mostly single coverage on O'Neal in Game 1, sagged in on him much more, but for the most part, it didn't seem to matter what they did, since he controlled the inside.
O'Neal made two straight baskets under heavy pressure early in the third quarter to put the Lakers ahead 56-46. Los Angeles led by as many as 13 before settling for their nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Notes: NBA commissioner David Stern presented O'Neal with his MVP
trophy at midcourt before the game. O'Neal came within one vote of
becoming the first-ever unanimous winner of the award. ... A
beautiful arrangement of flowers from a Chicago admirer awaited
O'Neal at his locker before the game. ... The Lakers have won 22 of
their past 23 games at Staples Center. ... Suns forward Tom
Gugliotta, who underwent season-ending knee surgery March 17, said
he expects to be 100 percent healthy next season. "It's difficult,
all the stuff we went through this season, a lot of it caused by
myself," he said of having to watch from the sidelines. "The team
is starting to come together." Gugliotta was selected to the U.S
Olympic basketball team, but was replaced by Vince Carter following
his injury. ... The Lakers have won the opener of a seven-game
series 42 times, and emerged winners on 35 of those occasions,
including eight sweeps.