Work in Sports
Kobe takes Game 1 into his hands in third quarter
Posted: Thursday June 08, 2000 09:57 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers' reputation caught up with them again Wednesday, late in the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
And, once again, it was Kobe Bryant who helped make sure that reputation didn't get any worse.
"At that point, it was like, 'Here we go. The Finals have started,'" said backup guard Derek Fisher. "I just didn't think the intensity, the urgency was there from the start, even though we played pretty well and had a good lead."
The Lakers were up by as many as 17 points on the Indiana Pacers and led by 15 points, at 67-52, nearly midway through the third quarter.
But in a span of about five minutes, the Pacers whittled the lead to two, at 71-69, and L.A.'s well-earned rep as a team that tends to toy with opponents -- a team that fails to put their rivals away when they're down -- again was justified.
The 17-4 run put the Pacers back in the game -- despite a horrible shooting night from Reggie Miller -- and finally brought the mostly quiet Staples Center crowd to its feet.
Showtime? Not quite.
But it was Kobe time.
Bryant, who played backup to Shaquille O'Neal most of the night, took matters into his own hands, nailing a little running jumper, after a patented Bryant spin move off Indiana's Jalen Rose, to give the Lakers a four-point edge. Bryant then pulled down a huge rebound of a Rose miss on the other end.
And when O'Neal swatted Reggie Miller's layup attempt on Indiana's next trip down the court, Bryant led a fast break and pulled up for a 13-footer that pushed the lead to six.
Indiana narrowed the lead to four on a couple free throws from Mark Jackson, but never got closer in the 104-87 L.A. win.
"It was fun," Bryant said. "They got to within two points and the crowd started picking up and, you know, the intensity started picking up, the pressure started picking up."
And Bryant made a conscious decision to take over.
"Absolutely," he said. "Absolutely."
The Lakers got themselves into trouble by getting away from their offense, which on a night when O'Neal scored 43 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, was pretty simple: Get it to the big fella.
Instead, the Lakers reacted to some rare double-teams on O'Neal by jacking up some outside shots. In that 17-4 run by Indiana, they missed five outside shots and had one blocked by Dale Davis.
"We sort of got lulled into taking that first outside shot," Fisher said. "I was probably the main culprit in that. But Kobe made some aggressive moves to the basket, and we got out of that."
Said Lakers coach Phil Jackson: "We moved the ball and went right back into Shaquille, instead of swinging the ball to the weak side and making their defense have to change sides of the floor."
Bryant finished with 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Four of the points came in the important third. The other eight came in the first quarter,
Both the points and the shots taken are well below his playoff average, thanks largely to the dominating effort from O'Neal, who took 31 of his team's 88 shots.
"I told [O'Neal] after the game," Bryant said, "'Thanks for the night off, Chief.'"
Good thing for the Lakers, though, that Bryant didn't take the whole night off.