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Sacramento 92, Los Angeles 91
Posted: Wednesday May 29, 2002 02:39 AM
Los Angeles Lakers
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Sacramento Kings
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SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- The biggest shot of Mike Bibby's career has the Sacramento Kings one win from the NBA Finals.

Bibby's 18-footer with 8.2 seconds left gave the Kings an emotional 92-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Kobe Bryant missed a last-second jumper for the Lakers, the two-time defending NBA champions who are on the verge of elimination. Their first chance to stay alive is Friday at Los Angeles.

The Kings trailed, 91-88, with less than a minute to go when Bibby drew a foul and made both free throws. Bryant had his shot blocked at the other end, and the Kings nearly turned it over before the Lakers knocked it out of bounds on the baseline with 11.4 seconds left.

Sacramento coach Rick Adelman called timeout and set up a play with Bibby inbounding the ball. Vlade Divac set a pick to free Chris Webber, who took the inbounds pass and and laid a crushing pick on Derek Fisher.

"That was specially designed to get the ball into Mike's hands because he is such a great decision-maker and he very rarely makes a bad decision out of bounds," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We just wanted him to hit Webb and come off and see what's there. We were going to have shooters out on the floor and let him make the decision."

"I figured that they would switch, but Chris set a good pick," Bibby said.

Bibby curled above Webber, took a return pass and nailed an open jumper from the right wing.

"Coach drew it up and I told Chris that if he hands the ball off to me, I was going to make it and he said that he was going to hand it off to me, so my confidence was high and I shot it with confidence," Bibby said.

With Shaquille O'Neal having fouled out, the Lakers went to Bryant. He tried to dribble past the shorter Bobby Jackson, who briefly poked the ball away. Bryant rushed a shot from the right side that bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded, bringing another deafening roar from the Arco Arena crowd.

Bryant thought he was fouled on the play.

"There is no need for me to comment on that. You guys saw the replay," he said. "We'll take the one-point defeat, go home and win the next game."

Jackson was guarding Bryant because Doug Christie had fouled out with 3:14 to play. Bryant scored quickly on a jumper but missed his last four shots.

"We played a good game without Shaq out there for about six minutes," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He had about five good looks, we had good opportunities, but they didn't go in for him."

Bibby scored seven of his 23 points in the final six minutes. In his first postseason, the fourth-year point guard has been outstanding, making a handful of clutch shots. But none were bigger than this one.

Webber had 29 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who have not been to the Finals since 1951, when they won their only title as the Rochester Royals. Since then, they have changed cities three times and nicknames once.

"I've never been to this level before, but coach has," Webber said. "Coach Adelman told us after the game to be focused and to take this opportunity to take every chance that you can to close out this series. We feel good but regardless of how we feel, we have to be ready for Friday night."

This is the closest the Lakers have been to elimination since Game Seven of the 2000 conference finals against Portland, when they rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit.

"We'd much rather be up 3-2, but that doesn't matter," Bryant said. "We've been faced with elimination before. When you're faced with adversity, we'll see what is important."

"We just need to regroup and refocus and come out hungry on Friday," O'Neal said. "We just have to step up to the challenge and force it to a Game Seven."

Bryant scored 30 points but made just 11-of-29 shots while committing five turnovers and five fouls. O'Neal scored 28 points on 14-of-18 shooting but fouled out with 3:22 left. Once again, they carried the offense for Los Angeles and got very little help.

"I was 14-of-18 tonight and only got to the free throw line once tonight," O'Neal said. "I got into foul trouble and really did play that long. I was trying to play aggressive, trying to play hard, but got a couple of silly fouls and I don't think that it was anything that their defense was doing."

And with O'Neal going scoreless in the final period, the Lakers became a one-man team. After Bibby's steal and layup, Bryant spun for a baseline jumper and made two free throws to give LA an 85-80 lead with 4:54 left.

Christie and Webber drove for layups before Bibby drew O'Neal's fifth foul. His free throw tied it with 3:14 remaining. A free throw by Webber gave the Kings an 88-87 lead with 2:23 to play, but Bryant answered 12 seconds later with a baseline jumper over Jackson.

Bryant missed jumpers on consecutive possessions. Samaki Walker rebounded the second and sank two free throws for a 91-88 lead with 59 seconds to go. Before Sacramento's final possession, Bryant had a drive smothered by Jackson and Divac.

Fox scored 16 points and Game Four hero Robert Horry grabbed 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 45 percent (35-of-78) and again won the battle of the boards, 42-39.

Divac and Hedo Turkoglu scored 13 points each for the Kings, who shot 47 percent (34-of-72) but hurt themselves by missing 11 free throws, including all five in the third quarter.

Kings All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic returned after missing six games with a right ankle sprain. He missed all three of his shots and scored just two points in 18 minutes off the bench.

The Lakers got off to a quick start for a change, shooting 65 percent (15-of-23) in the first quarter and racing to a 33-27 lead. O'Neal scored 12 points but committed two fouls.

Stojakovic came on with 2:45 left in the opening period and received a rousing ovation. He contributed very little, but the Kings still charged to the lead in the second quarter as the Lakers went more than eight minutes without a basket.

O'Neal sat down with his third foul with 5:47 left and Los Angeles trailing, 38-37. Sacramento held a 51-46 halftime lead behind 16 points from Webber.

O'Neal and Bryant were whistled for their fourth fouls 92 seconds apart early in the third quarter. They remained in the game and helped the Lakers turn a nine-point deficit into a 74-73 lead entering the final period. O'Neal scored 16 points in the quarter, 12 on dunks.

 


 
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