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Pacers' Locker Room
A perfect opportunity for Indiana goes 'poof' in L.A.
Posted: Saturday June 10, 2000 02:26 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
LOS ANGELES -- The front was still there, for sure, chiseled into the faces and all over the words of the beaten Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
But their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals -- a devastating loss, all things considered -- stung the Pacers. Badly.
They blew it, and they knew it.
"Yeah, you have to look at the chance we had, especially given the fact that Kobe [Bryant] wasn't playing," said Indiana's Austin Croshere. "It was a missed opportunity, definitely."
The Pacers, now down 2-0 in the first-to-four series, came out strong in the first quarter and had the score tied at 20 when Bryant, the Lakers' All-Star guard, came down on Indiana's Jalen Rose with 3:26 remaining in the quarter.
Bryant, the Lakers' second-leading scorer and definitely their best defender on the perimeter, rolled his left ankle and immediately hit the floor in pain, never to return.
All of a sudden, the perfect opportunity for the Pacers to take a game in L.A. before the series heads to Indianapolis for Games 3, 4 and 5 presented itself.
Instead, the Lakers responded. Glen Rice had 21 points (including 5-of-6 on 3-pointers). Guard Ron Harper, a forgotten scorer for much of the season, also had 21. Forward Robert Horry hit a key reverse lay-in and had seven points. Derek Fisher and Rick Fox had six points apiece.
When the Lakers added the 40-point, 24-rebound effort of the team's star, center Shaquille O'Neal, it all added up to a 111-104 L.A. win.
"I think we probably catnapped on those guys a little bit," Indiana point guard Mark Jackson said of the lesser Lakers, "and they hurt us."
Said Indiana center Rik Smits: "That's the kind of thing that hurts you. You know Shaq's going to score. ..."
If the Pacers leaned on one thing after Friday's loss, it was the promise of the series switching to Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Pacers were an NBA-best 36-5 this season.
No team has won the middle three games of an NBA Finals at home, but the Pacers feel confident they can change that and send the series back to L.A. for Game 6.
"The way I look at it, they held serve," Croshere said. "Our record [at Conseco] speaks for itself."
Still, the Pacers well know that to win the NBA Finals in their first trip there, they'll have to win a game in L.A. And now they have one fewer chance to do that.
It was, they know, a game they could have had.
"Yeah, you always get that feeling in a game like that," backup center Sam Perkins said. "We played pretty hard and were right there throughout the game."
Right there, though, wasn't good enough.
And now the Pacers are left to wonder whether Friday night's loss is one that will come back to haunt them.