Lakers take 2-1 series edge with Game 3 win
Updated: Monday June 11, 2001 8:28 AM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- All the talk about heart, character, resiliency and toughness has been a little one-sided in the NBA Finals.
Turns out the Los Angeles Lakers possess those qualities, too.
Kobe Bryant silenced the fans who gave him a rude welcome and Robert Horry made sure they went home angry Sunday night as the Lakers overcame the loss of their biggest weapon -- Shaquille O'Neal -- and held off the Philadelphia 76ers 96-91.
"I don't care what your problem is; I don't care how big your heart is," Bryant said. "We just want to come and beat you, no matter how competitive you are."
Bryant scored 32 points, half of them in the second quarter when he gave the Lakers the lead for good, and Horry scored 12 fourth-quarter points -- including the Lakers' final seven -- as Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead in this compelling and entertaining series.
Bryant, O'Neal and Horry accounted for 77 of the Lakers' 96 points, with Horry scoring the game's biggest basket -- a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left.
"That's what teammates are for," Bryant said. "Robert came in and did an excellent job. He hit a humongous shot for us."
The 76ers trailed from the second quarter on and missed their one and only chance to tie the game when Allen Iverson could make only one of two free throws with 2:06 left -- 15 seconds after O'Neal drew his sixth foul for backing over Dikembe Mutombo.
"I didn't think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping like that. It's a shame that the referees buy into that," O'Neal said. "I wish he'd stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and crying every time I back him down.
"It's just a shame, and you can quote me on that. And underline it three times," O'Neal said.
Iverson missed a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left and Raja Bell missed one six seconds later, but Tyronn Lue fouled Iverson on a 3-pointer and he made all three free throws to cut the Lakers' lead to 92-91 with 27.6 seconds left.
Horry made two from the line with 21.3 left for a 94-91 lead, and the 76ers took their final timeout.
Iverson drove to the basket and had to attempt a high-arching shot over the outstretched arm of Bryant. It missed, Horry was fouled on the rebound, and he made both shots to wrap up the victory.
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
"I don't want to say we let it slip away," Iverson said. "We were right there, kept fighting and just weren't able to pull it off."
Bryant shot just 3-for-14 in the second half, but the damage he did in the second quarter proved to be more important. He hit eight consecutive shots -- all but two of them from the perimeter -- to give the Lakers a lead that slowly dwindled the rest of the way but never disappeared.
O'Neal had 30 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and Horry finished with 15 points.
Iverson had 35 points for Philadelphia, including 14 in the fourth quarter, while Mutombo added 23 points and 12 rebounds and Eric Snow scored 14.
With the Lakers leading 86-84 with 2:21 left, O'Neal backed into Mutombo and was called for his sixth foul. Iverson went to the foul line 15 seconds later and made just one of two, causing the crowd to groan. No doubt many of them had flashbacks to Game 2 when Philadelphia missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
After Rick Fox made a free throw, Bryant hit a running 11-footer for a four-point lead. Kevin Ollie had a three-point play to make 89-88, but Horry was left alone in the corner for a 3-pointer that restored a four-point edge.
"I've been taking them in the Finals for three years now. The ball came to me in the corner, and I just took the shot," Horry said.
A crowd of more than 1,000 booed the Lakers' team bus as it arrived at First Union Center less than two hours before tipoff, and Bryant bounded off the bus wearing sky-blue sweats and a smile.
He grew up in nearby Lower Merion, Pa., but has not been a fan favorite in Philly.
The crowd booed him louder than any of the other Lakers during pregame introductions, and he was the object of a derisive chant just 17 seconds into the game.
"He still considers this a place that he has friends, and there's going to be a tremendous amount of attention paid to him," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "People watched him grow up here since he was 14 years of age and through high school, so I'm sure it has special meaning for him. But he's trying to maintain a calm, cool demeanor about it."
Bryant personified calm and cool as he started finding his stroke early in the second quarter.
After his 20-footer from the top of the key gave the Lakers their first 10-point lead, 40-30, he stuck his tongue out and wagged it quickly from side to side while backpedaling downcourt.
"We just block it out," Bryant said of the crowd. "Our motto is it's just a whole lot of noise."
Bryant had 20 points at halftime as Los Angeles held a 10-point lead.
The Sixers got within three early in the fourth before Horry hit a wide-open 3-pointer and then flushed a vicious dunk over Mutombo. O'Neal followed with another dunk for an 80-72 lead but picked up his fifth foul with 6:28 left.
The Sixers pulled to 84-82 on a putback by Mutombo with 4:26 left and neither team scored again until O'Neal dunked an offensive rebound with 3:04 left to make it 86-82.
Notes: O'Neal scored 14 points in the first quarter, going 6-for-7
from the line. ... Derek Fisher again played tight defense on
Iverson, although the referees didn't let him get away with as much
holding as he did in Game 2. He fouled out with 2:47 remaining.
... Former president Bill Clinton was among those in attendance. He
received a mixed ovation. Heavyweight boxing champion Hasim Rahman