Work in Sports
Controversial late fouls against Croshere doom Pacers
Posted: Tuesday June 20, 2000 02:14 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant softened up the Indiana Pacers' defense Monday night, and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates nailed some huge shots when it counted.
But it was a couple of controversial fouls in the final minutes of a pulse-quickening final quarter that pushed the Lakers over the Pacers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and gave L.A. its first NBA championship since 1988.
"Those were some tough calls," Indiana point guard Mark Jackson said after the series-clinching 116-111 L.A. win. "But that's a part of the game."
The Lakers, whose failures in closeout games had haunted them all postseason, trailed for much of the game and went into the fourth quarter behind by five points. But an early-quarter push got them within one, Robert Horry got them within one again with a huge 3-pointer, and they finally got over the hump when Bryant dished to Shaquille O'Neal with 9:02 remaining to put the Lakers ahead 91-90.
Still, the Pacers came back to tie the score at 103, and climbed within one again, at 110-109, with 1:32 left.
That's when a pair of fouls -- fouls that will be talked about for a long time in Indianapolis -- were whistled.
Forward Austin Croshere was called for both of them.
The first was committed on Glen Rice and the second on Bryant. The four straight free throws pushed the lead to five with 13 seconds left and sealed the game.
"That play with Glen, it was just two guys fighting for the ball," Croshere said. Rice drove to the basket, Indiana's Dale Davis blocked his shot, and Rice and Croshere found themselves scrambling for the ball.
"I was just trying to hold [Rice] off, and I guess Joey [Crawford] thought I did it a bit harder than I should have."
Said Rice, who dropped both free throws after blowing two straight late in the third quarter: "It was definitely a foul. That's why they blew the whistle."
A little more than a minute later -- after Indiana had missed two straight shots, including a quick 30-foot 3-pointer by the Pacers' Reggie Miller -- Bryant was driving on the left side of the basket, freelancing as he had done most of the night.
He put up an off-balance shot that Croshere challenged. Croshere seemed to get all ball.
But the whistle blew again.
"The other play, with Kobe -- I didn't touch him," Croshere said. "It was disappointing."
Croshere was a bit baffled by the fact that the whistles came in such crucial situations, especially late that late in the game.
"A lot of times, in those situations, they'll give the call to the aggressor," Croshere said. "But I didn't feel like that was the case [on Bryant's shot]. He was kind of fading away. It seemed like he kind of shot the ball under my forearm."
Bryant went to the free-throw line, dropped both shots to put the Lakers up 114-109, and the game, essentially, was over. After an uncontested basket by the Pacers, Bryant dropped two more free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining for the final margin.
The Pacers, for the most part, knew they had let one get away, even with the controversial calls. They had led by as many as 12 points early in the game and let an eight-point second-half lead disappear.
The late foul calls just put a capper on a hugely disappointing second half.
"They were some tough calls. Some very tough calls," Jackson said. "But we have to live with it. It's a good thing the whole world was watching, though."