When it came time for clutch baskets, big blocked shots and key
free throws, the two-time defending champs had enough of each to
take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
No team has ever recovered from such a deficit to win an NBA
playoff series, and don't expect to see it from the Nets -- even
though they managed to play a competitive game for the first time
in the series.
"I don't think there is a team that can do that," Bryant said.
"We're a confident team, and we're playing really well together."
The Nets played well together, too. Even that wasn't good
Kidd was outstanding, leading the Nets on a 19-5 run that gave
them their biggest lead at any point in the series -- seven points midway through the fourth.
But it was Bryant who made the bigger plays down the stretch --
none more important than his 10-foot jumper over Kidd with 19.1
seconds left for a 104-100 lead. Bryant was double-teamed on the
shot, and Kidd even got a hand on the ball before Bryant broke
free, turned to his right and hit the bucket.
"It was one of the toughest" clutch shots of his career,
Bryant said. "It was a matter of just wanting it. I didn't want to
lose possession of the basketball and didn't want to let my
Kidd knocked down a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to cut it to
104-103, and the Nets fouled Rick Fox with 3.5 seconds left. He
made both, and Kidd was off-target after dribbling upcourt and
launching a 30-footer just before the buzzer.
Bryant had 36 points, shooting 14-for-23 and scoring a dozen
points in the fourth quarter.
"I wanted it. I wanted it; it's game time. I wasn't going to
let them take it from me," Bryant said. "We're battle-tested.
That's what I kept telling the fellas in timeouts."
|As the series shifted to Continental Airlines Arena, a short drive from his native Newark, Shaquille O'Neal prepared for something of a family reunion.
His mother's side of the family resides there. So do the the relatives of O'Neal's stepfather, Philip Harrison.
The L.A. Daily News reports that the Shaq Paq was large, indeed. O'Neal said he expected 80 to 85 members of his extended family to attend Game 3 and Game 4 on Wednesday. (The way the Lakers are playing, Friday's scheduled Game 5 appears unnecessary.)
O'Neal was 12-for-19 from the field with 11 rebounds, Derek
Fisher scored 13 points while going 3-for-3 from 3-point range, and
Horry and Fox came through at the end.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson tied Pat Riley for the most career
playoff victories -- 155. It took Jackson only 209 games to tie the
mark, a winning percentage of .741 compared with Riley's .608.
Kidd had 30 points and Kenyon Martin scored 26 for the Nets, who
knew that their best chance for keeping their title hopes alive
rested on them winning this game.
"We did all we could, man. We've got to tip our hats off to
them," Martin said. "We played our hearts out. We're very
deflated. To have it slip away in the last two minutes was hard."
The Nets now need to win four in a row against a team that has
only allowed them to have one single glimmer of hope through the
first three games.
Kidd provided it, but it wasn't enough.
After Bryant put several nifty moves on Kerry Kittles and made a
short jumper for a 73-63 lead, Kidd began taking over.
He scored seven points over the next 1:13, then hit a jumper
with 51 seconds left before feeding Richard Jefferson for a dunk.
Martin scored on a drive with 1.8 seconds left, tying the game at
Kidd opened the fourth quarter with a jumper, then pulled off
his sweetest move of the night -- starting and stopping and darting
through four defenders for a floater. Jefferson followed with a
fast-break layup off a pass from Kidd to put the Nets up 86-80,
completing the 19-5 run.
The Nets maintained the lead -- they were up as much as 94-87 --
until Horry hit a 3-pointer off a pass from O'Neal with 3:03 left.
Kidd fired up a quick 3-point attempt that missed, and Bryant
knocked down a 22-footer with 1 second on the shot clock for a
100-96 lead with 2:17 remaining.
Kidd answered with a jumper, but O'Neal banked in a 10-footer
from a tough angle to restore a four-point lead, 102-98 with 58
Bryant missed two from the line with 42 seconds left -- it was
his only negative moment of the night -- and Keith Van Horn hit a
corner jumper to cut it to 102-100.
That's when Bryant hit the crucial basket -- one that was so
tough to make, and so deflating for New Jersey, that it may just
have won the series for the Lakers.
"We've been together too long to fold," O'Neal said.
After trailing 31-23 after one quarter, the Nets got some help
from the referees to crawl back into it by halftime.
Jackson was irate when O'Neal was called for a questionable
goaltending violation, and Horry was aghast when referee Bob
Delaney whistled him for a technical as he skipped downcourt when
he was called for his third personal.
Official Dick Bavetta called Fox for a highly debatable flagrant
foul on Martin, helping the Nets pull to 46-42.
Notes: There have been only six four-game sweeps in NBA Finals
history. ... Lucious Harris ditched the face mask he had been
wearing since the midpoint of the regular season. After going
1-for-15 from the field in Games 1 and 2, he was 1-for-5 without
it. ... The Nets lost for the first time in the postseason when
scoring 100 points. They had been 6-0. ... Kidd's career record
against the Lakers dropped to 6-20.
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