Horry scored seven clutch points in the final minute as the Lakers again fought off the Philadelphia 76ers, 96-91, to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
The Lakers showed the 76ers a little bit of the toughness that has made them NBA champions. With Bryant struggling and O'Neal on the bench, they had every reason to give in to another frenetic rally by the Sixers.
But Horry would not let them. A member of the Houston Rockets title teams of 1994-95, he scored 12 of his playoff-high 15 points in the fourth quarter and saved his best for last.
"People always say that about me -- that in June, you come out and that's the only time you play," Horry said. "I guess that's either a good thing or a bad thing."
"People who watch this team know it's no surprise," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That's why he plays fourth quarters for us, is his ability to defend and also make key shots. He was big tonight."
With O'Neal off the floor, Philadelphia went to a funky five-guard lineup and reserve Kevin Ollie's follow shot -- his only basket of the game -- became a three-point play that made it 89-88 with 1:02 remaining.
The Sixers applied pressure and the ball went to the left corner to Horry, who at 6-10 was the tallest player on the court. He drilled the shot for a 92-88 advantage with 47 seconds to go.
"That's a rhythm shot for me, something I practice all the time," Horry said. "I said, 'Hey, I get my feet set, I'm shooting this.' They got a small lineup. I know other guys can got to the boards, get the rebound."
Allen Iverson, who had 35 points, 12 rebounds and finally got back to the free-throw line, was fouled behind the arc and made all three shots to again make it a one-point game. The Sixers again pressured the ball but Horry responded with two free throws with 21 seconds left.
"We decided to try to steal and foul and hope that somebody missed a free throw," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "It didn't happen."
Iverson missed a tough driving layup as he was harassed by Horry and Bryant. A 44 percent free-throw shooter in the postseason, Horry again was fouled and made two more to seal it with 9.5 seconds to play.
"We had a chance to win," said Iverson, who made just 12-of-30 shots but 10-of-13 free throws. "We were right there. ... We kept fighting, got back into the game and we just weren't able to pull it off."
Bryant scored 32 points but made just 3-of-14 shots after halftime. O'Neal added 30 and 12 rebounds but had foul trouble in the second half, exiting with 2:21 to go. But Philadelphia could not overtake Los Angeles and gave back the home court it stole in Game One.
"All we're trying to do is just execute and no matter if the bounces go our way or the call doesn't go our way, we don't try to get down too much," Bryant said. "We try to play through it as much as we possibly can."
"We played through everything," O'Neal said. "We persevered and got a tough Game Three."
Regardless of which team jumps out to an early lead, it does not seem to matter. Each game has come down to the final two minutes and has been decided by a clutch 3-pointer -- the last two by the defending champion Lakers, who have met the challenge this series has become.
"We have players that make critical plays," said Jackson. "We're very pleased with the way we respond to pressure and the way we respond to difficult things. There's no playoffs that doesn't have its critical moments. Most games have them."
"Game One, we made some shots when we needed them down the stretch," Brown said. "Game Two, (Derek) Fisher and (Brian) Shaw made big shots. Tonight, Horry makes them. That's the difference in the series."
Game Four is here Wednesday. The Sixers have now trailed 2-1 in three straight series.
"You don't want to think about going down another game," Iverson said. "You never think that."
Dikembe Mutombo collected 23 points and 12 rebounds and Eric Snow scored 14 points for Philadelphia, which never led in the final 38 minutes.
The Lakers led 73-66 entering the fourth quarter but the whistle seemed to sound in favor of the Sixers thereafter. Iverson took just one free throw in the first three quarters and 12 in the final period. Meanwhile, O'Neal took nine foul shots in the first half and none the rest of the way.
"That changed the game," Brown said. "That allowed us to set our defense and gave us a chance to win."
Horry had a 3-pointer and a slam over Mutombo early in the period. Two free throws by Bryant gave Los Angeles an 82-73 advantage with 7:23 to go.
Iverson made a 3-pointer and O'Neal picked up his fifth foul to start the inevitable late-game push by the Sixers. Iverson's two free throws made it 86-84 with 2:47 left and O'Neal fouled out 26 seconds later trying to plow past Mutombo.
"I didn't think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping like he did," O'Neal said. "That's a shame that the referees buy into that. I wish he'd stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and crying every time I back him down."
"He fouled out, I thought we had a chance to win the ballgame," Sixers forward Tyrone Hill said.
But Philadelphia could not sustain the momentum. Iverson and Rick Fox traded a free throw apiece and Raja Bell could not handle a pass from Iverson underneath. Bryant made a floater in the lane for an 89-85 lead with 1:17 remaining.
Bryant made 13-of-30 shots and O'Neal hit 11-of-20. The Lakers shot 47 percent (35-of-75) and held the Sixers to 41 percent (33-of-80).
Having jumped from Lower Merion High School here to the NBA five years ago, Bryant was booed the loudest during the pregame introductions. Derisive chants of "Kobe (stinks)!" began in the opening 15 seconds.
The first quarter belonged to O'Neal, who scored 14 points and left his problems at the line in LA, making 6-of-7. Iverson scored 10 and midway through the period thrilled the First Union Center when he beat a diving O'Neal to a loose ball and nimbly skipped over the 330-pound giant with a dribble.
Matt Geiger's jumper beat the buzzer and gave the Sixers a 25-25 tie before Bryant began proving the crowd wrong. With O'Neal taking a rest, he made five straight jumpers to give the Lakers a 40-30 lead, outclassing rookie Raja Bell.
"He got cooking early tonight," Bell admitted. "He started feeling it and once you let somebody with that much talent start feeling it, it's hard to control him."
Both McKie and Snow took turns on Bryant without much success. He spun inside for a layup, then drilled a 20-footer over McKie with 4:02 to go, keeping the lead at double digits.
"My teammates set good picks for me, got me open, I got easy looks at the basket," Bryant said. "It was a matter of knocking them down."
The Lakers led by as many as 13 points before settling for a 55-45 halftime advantage as Bryant and O'Neal combined for 38 points. Los Angeles shot 54 percent (21-of-39).
As he did in the second half of Game One and the first half of Game Two, Iverson did not go to the line. He finally took a technical foul shot in the third quarter, when Bryant cooled considerably and O'Neal had to sit with his fourth foul.
The Sixers clamped down on defense and rode Mutombo's offense to twice get within five points, but Bryant beat the shot clock with a 22-foot jumper late in the period.