OREGON - With the Lakers trailing, 90-86, Bryant - freed up by
O'Neal's screen - hit a 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds left that
had the Lakers within 90-89.
After Scottie Pippen
hit one of two free throws with 10.8 seconds left that gave the
Blazers a 91-89 lead, Bryant drove from the top of the key past
Ruben "Not quite the Kobe stopper" Patterson and got
close enough to the basket to get off a shot. Pippen sagged in
the lane to help, leaving Horry alone in the corner.
Bryant hit the open
man, and Horry knocked down his 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left
giving the Lakers a 92-91 victory and a sweep of their opening-round
playoff series against Portland.
It's called championship
mystique. The Los Angeles Lakers have it and Scottie Pippen has
One of the NBA's
50 Greatest Players, Pippen won six championships as Michael Jordan's
sidekick with the Chicago Bulls. But he left the Bulls as part
of the dismantling of the dynasty.
Pippen has spent
one season with Houston and three with Portland. Each time, he
has been eliminated from the playoffs by Los Angeles, going out
in the first round 3 times.
This one had to be
particularly painful. In the final 10 seconds, he missed a free
throw, blew a defensive assignment and threw away an inbounds
pass, turning a certain victory into a season-ending defeat.
The Lakers eliminated
the Trail Blazers for the third straight year, the last two being
Pippen had his usual
solid all-around game with 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
But none of that helped Portland down the stretch.
Bryant scored 25
points and O'Neal added 21, 11 rebounds and seven assists for
the Lakers, who have won 19 of their last 20 playoff games, including
7 in a row. Wallace had 20 points and 12 boards and Bonzi Wells
scored 19 points for the Blazers, who have lost 7 consecutive
playoff games, all to the Lakers.
The Blazers limited
O'Neal to one basket in the first half but still trailed, 50-41,
as the Lakers closed with a 14-4 surge. But Los Angeles missed
its first 10 shots of the third quarter, and a 3-pointer and two
free throws by Pippen capped a 13-2 run that gave Portland a 54-52
Portland led by as
many as five points in the fourth quarter. After a fast-break
layup by Rick Fox gave Los Angeles an 84-82 lead with 4:08 to
play, Damon Stoudamire made a 3-pointer and Wells sank two free
throws. A follow dunk by Rasheed Wallace gave the Blazers an 89-84
lead with 39 seconds left. Rick Fox answered with a layup and
Wallace made 1-of-2 from the line with 17 seconds to go.
It was another clutch
playoff shot by Horry, who scored just eight points. He was a
key component of Houston's championship teams in 1994-95 and made
a big 3-pointer in Game Three of last year's NBA Finals.
O'Neal was 11-of-16
from the line, and Kobe 3-of-4 behind the arc. Fox scored 16 points
and Fisher added 11 for the Lakers, who shot 46 percent (32-of-70)
from the field.
Anderson scored 12
points for the Blazers, who shot 38 percent (32-of-84) but held
a 53-37 rebounding edge.