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Anatomy of a Classic
Game 4 provided so many thrills, it's easy to forget them
Posted: Thursday June 15, 2000 01:26 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
This is a special edition of the NBA Week at a Glance. It will appear every day until the NBA Finals conclude.
INDIANAPOLIS -- How do they top that one?
The Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers, barely 12 hours after one of the most exciting NBA Finals games you'll ever see, were ready to hunker down Thursday morning in practice for Game 5.
Friday's Game 5 will be one that could give the Lakers, up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, their first NBA title since 1988. It will be a game of pride for the Pacers, who want to force the series back to L.A. to try to do something no other team ever has done. That is, climb out of a 3-1 hole in the Finals.
First, though, both sides have to shake a game from memory that is almost unshakable -- L.A.'s thrilling 120-118 overtime win Wednesday night.
| SI's Marty Burns |
It will be remembered as Kobe's Coming Out Party. Or perhaps as the night
the Shaq/Kobe tandem took its place among the game's all-time great
duos. But it took a complete team effort for L.A. to overcome the
desperate Pacers in Game 4 Wednesday night. Here are a few observations
from a classic contest:
1. Offensive boards: Kobe Bryant's impact was huge, particularly for Shaq
on the offensive boards. Kobe's penetration and ability to collapse the
Pacers' D led directly to several of Shaq's seven offensive boards and
helped the Diesel get some easy baskets. The Pacers simply couldn't keep
a body on both of them.
2. L.A.'s transition D: After a shaky Game 3, L.A. did a much better job
getting back in transition to choke off Indiana's attempts to run in Game
4. It helped that L.A. converted such a high percentage of shots (51.6 percent),
since it's harder to run when you have to pull the ball out of the net.
3. Free-throw shooting: Larry Bird knew it instinctively when he
predicted Shaq would make all his free throws one game. The percentages
came back to burn the Pacers in Game 4, with Shaq making 10 of 17 free
throws and his team converting 20 of 30.
"We shoot 50 percent from the field, they shoot 51. The game goes into overtime. We lose Dale [Davis], they lose Shaq [O'Neal]," said Indiana's Jalen Rose. "If you're a fan, it's a great game. But it's definitely a tough loss to take."
Wednesday's game was filled with so many clutch shots, so many key plays and clutch stretches, it's too easy to forget them all.
Here are a few, sort of an anatomy lesson of a classic:
L.A.'s Kobe Bryant picks up his fourth foul with 10:57 left in the third quarter. Coach Phil Jackson leaves him in and he scores the Lakers' next six points in a breathtaking prelude to what will come.
L.A.'s Glen Rice drains a 25-foot 3-pointer from the right wing with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter. It's L.A.'s first lead in Conseco Fieldhouse in the Finals and it proves to be the first of an astonishing 17 lead changes and six tie scores in the game. Seven of the lead changes come in the next eight minutes.
Indy's Sam Perkins nails a 3-pointer from the right baseline to put the Pacers up by five points with 7:46 left in the game. The Lakers call a timeout.
After the timeout, the Lakers run a fastbreak and Indy's 5-foot-11 point guard Travis Best tries to tackle the 7-foot-1 O'Neal high. Best, who hit the floor hard on his left shoulder, is called for a flagrant foul. O'Neal makes both his free throws, part of an 8-2 run by L.A. to retake the lead. It is the first of six straight possessions on which the score is either tied or the teams switch leads. Indy's Reggie Miller caps it off with a 3-pointer from the left baseline to put Indy up 98-97.
Less than a minute later, Miller drains another 3-pointer to put the Pacers up 101-99. He was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in the quarter.
Down 104-101 with 44.8 seconds left, the Pacers find Sam Perkins all alone on the right wing for a 3-pointer. He sinks it with 35.8 seconds left to tie the score.
L.A.'s Robert Horry throws the ball away trying to get it to Glen Rice in the post, giving the Pacers a chance to win in regulation.
Best, surprised that O'Neal jumped out on him on a switch, throws up a fall-away airball with 2.3 seconds left. The game goes into overtime.
The Lakers score the first four points in OT, but the Pacers climb back within a point three times -- once on a Miller 3-pointer, once on a Rik Smits hook in the lane (after O'Neal fouled out) and once on a pair of free throws by Miller. The free throws make it 116-115, L.A.
When Glen Rice throws up an airball after a drive down the right baseline, L.A.'s Brian Shaw is there for the stickback to give the Lakers a three-point edge with 46.6 seconds left.
Smits drops in two free throws to get the Pacers back within one once again. Only 28.1 seconds remain.
Shaw throws up a shot that glances off the rim, but Bryant, incredibly, slips in for the game-winning offensive rebound and reverse stickback with 5.9 seconds left.
After a timeout, Miller launches a 3-pointer from the right wing that would have won the game. He puts a little too much air under it, though, to get it over the arms of a hard-charging Horry, and the shot bounces off the front of the rim and goes over the backboard. Lakers win.
"This," said the Lakers' Glen Rice, "is what the NBA Finals is all about."
On to the NBA Finals Day at a Glance, which on the day before Game 5 whines: Are we there yet?
The answer: Almost. Almost.
| The Pacers' Psyche |
|No team ever has come back from a 3-1 hole in the NBA Finals. And after that heartbreaker in Game 4, the Pacers may just want to roll over. Or not.|
| Closing it Out |
|The biggest knock on the Lakers this season has been their lack of killer instinct. Can they get it for Game 5, or will they wait till the series is back in L.A.? |
| Kobe |
|Now officially a first-name-only guy, Kobe solidified his spot as maybe the most exciting player in the NBA with his Game 4 performance. He could own this league if he wants. |
| Bird Bids Adieu |
|Friday night in Game 5 we will watch the last NBA coaching game of Larry Bird in the state of Indiana. But will that provide the emotion to get the Pacers over the top? ||
| HOT: Rik Smits |
His confidence back in place, the deft-shooting Dutchman had 24 points on 11-for-14 shooting. And many of them right in Shaq's face.
| COLD: Jalen Rose |
What happened to the Pacers' sharpshooter? Only 14 points, none in OT, on 5-for-16 shooting and only three rebounds. Bad time to disappear.
| HOT: Brian Shaw |
We've been giving him enough grief for his 3-point shooting. But a key stickback in OT, and the penetration on the shot that Kobe tipped in for the game-winner, gets the L.A. guard back on the "Hot" list.
| HOT: Reggie Miller |
Sometimes, the numbers say a lot. In the fourth quarter and overtime -- in clutch time -- Miller made six of his eight shots, including four of his five 3-pointers. And all three of his free throws.
| Kobe . He took it over. No one could stop him (save for a Smits stuff). We don't want to compare, but ... well, it compared to that other guy, the one on all the commercials who's retired now.
| Pacers . A win and their arrow would have been sky-high. But now ... if they're not careful, the Lakers could plow them under Friday and make everyone forget how good this series could have been.
| The NBA . Game 4 was exactly what the league needed. A wonderfully played game with lots of offense, a likeable star, late-game drama -- and the big-market Lakers winning.
| Shaq's Shooting . This arrow spins around more than the Pacers' heads on defense. In Game 4, O'Neal's 10-of-17 at the line was hardly award-winning. But for Shaq, it wasn't bad.
| Game 4 |
| Swish : Scoring, lead changes, great plays, Kobe. What more do you want?|
Brick : Just another game in a boring series if L.A. wins Friday.
| Robert Horry |
| Swish : Pressures Miller on final shot, makes him miss.|
Brick : Horrible pass in last seconds of regulation almost doomed Lakers.
| Travis Best |
| Swish : Pacers' sparkplug scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting.|
Brick : An airball at the end of regulation and the bad end of a flagrant foul on Shaq.
| The Finals |
| Swish : Pacers showing more pluck than many believed.|
Brick : Still might end up 4-1 near-sweep.
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