LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The irresistible force of Shaquille O'Neal forced a Game Seven in the Western Conference finals.
The Kings host Game Seven on Sunday night with a chance to dethrone the Lakers, who improved to 3-0 in elimination games during their hold on the title. The winner faces the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals beginning Wednesday night.
Hampered by injuries all season, the 7-2, 350-pound O'Neal put the hurt on the Kings. His best game of the 2002 postseason saw him make 14-of-25 shots and 13-of-17 free throws, fouling out Sacramento big men Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard.
"I'm not going to change my game," O'Neal said. "A couple of games I tried to be cute, tried to stay out of foul trouble. I'm just going to play aggressive and (they) call it how they call it. But if they call it like they're supposed to call it, the outcome will be the same like it was tonight. You've got to foul me to stop me, period."
O'Neal scored 12 points in a tense fourth quarter, including a nifty reverse layup with 52 seconds left -- his team's first basket in nearly six minutes -- that gave Los Angeles a 101-98 lead.
"He said, 'Come to me,'" Lakers forward Robert Horry said. "He has not said that in a long time."
The Lakers showed their championship mettle, making 14-of-16 foul shots in the final three minutes. They needed just about every one as the Kings continued to provide the toughest test they have faced during their dynasty.
Even with O'Neal's heroics -- and 31 points from Kobe Bryant -- the Lakers still held their breath as a bloodied Mike Bibby launched a potential tying 3-pointer with five seconds left. He missed, and the teams will play the first Game Seven of this year's postseason.
"That happens sometimes. You have to take the good with the bad," said Bibby, who made just 7-of-20 shots. "I hope it's out of me right now. We got one more game to play. It's do or die now."
"Going up to Arco (Arena) and playing Game Seven, it's going to be fun," Bryant said. "You know how their fans are. ... It's going to be a huge challenge for us and we're really looking forward to it."
Bryant helped O'Neal by grabbing 11 rebounds and making 11-of-11 free throws, including four in the final 20 seconds that kept the Kings looking for the tying 3-pointer.
The Kings thought the Lakers got some help from the officials as well. Los Angeles made 34-of-40 free throws while Sacramento sank 18-of-25. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers hit 21-of-27 from the line while the Kings made 7-of-9.
"Our big guys get 20 fouls tonight and Shaq gets four? You tell me how the game went," Adelman said. "It's just the way it is. Obviously, they got the game called the way they wanted to get it called."
"It's just the reality of the matter," Webber added. "I've heard from some champions that to get to be a champion; you have to go through this, so I was warned."
A driving layup by Hedo Turkoglu pulled the Kings within 103-102 with 12 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, Bryant elbowed Bibby to the nose and pushed him to the floor to receive the pass before being fouled.
Between Bryant's free throws, the Kings called their last timeout to stop the bleeding in Bibby's nose so their best shooter could remain in the game. With gauze stuffed up his nostril, he dribbled upcourt but missed the potential tying shot.
"I told Mike I wouldn't forget my guard was on the floor, bleeding," Webber said. "I will not forget that. I'm not going to play dirty or anything like that. I might take 10 more jump hooks or 10 more jumpers, but that will be in the back of my mind." Webber had 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Bibby scored 23 points and Divac added 12 and 12 rebounds for the Kings.
Neither team led by more than seven points and the game was tied, 75-75, entering the fourth quarter. O'Neal had two free throws and a basket, fouling out Pollard in the process. Devean George added a free throw for a five-point lead.
O'Neal had a banker with 6:51 to go, keeping the lead at 88-83, before the Kings came back. Divac returned and converted a three-point play to give Sacramento a 90-89 edge with 4:38 to play.
After a layup by Bibby, Divac fouled out and Horry made two free throws for a 92-92 tie. Two free throws by Bryant gave the Lakers the lead for good at 95-94 with 1:55 left and Rick Fox added two more 18 seconds later.
"I knew before the game I'd be out of it," Divac said. "He (O'Neal) went out (on fouls) up there (in Sacramento). It had to be the same down here."
Fox scored 11 points for LA. Turkoglu had 12 and Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson added 10 each for Sacramento.