With eight minutes to play in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and the Utah Jazz clinging to an 82-80 lead over the Lakers, both teams looked to their go-to guys.
The Lakers went to Shaquille O'Neal.
The Utah Jazz went to Shandon Anderson and Bryon Russell.
It sure was. For the Lakers.
With Karl Malone playing with a large bandage on one of the fingers of his shooting hand and John Stockton spending large chunks of time on the bench receiving treatment on his left thigh, the Jazz turned to their lesser-known names to turn away the Lakers.
And, in what is becoming an all-too-familiar story to the Lakers in this series, those playing in the shadow of Malone and Stockton emerged into the spotlight.
Between them, Anderson and Russell scored 12 straight points and 18 of 20 as the Jazz blew the game open, going from the 82-80 advantage to a 102-94 lead in seven minutes, a run that ended the Lakers' hopes in Game 3.
And, barring an historic comeback, ended the Lakers' hopes of winning this series.
In Game 1, Howard Eisley and Chris Morris came off the bench to give their teammates the spark that ignited into a 35-point win. In Game 2, it was Russell and Morris pumping in the key baskets when Utah went ahead for good.
In the crucial fourth-quarter minutes of Game 3, Anderson scored 11 of his total of 13 points and Russell the other seven. Meanwhile, at the other end, the Lakers stuck with their two-dimensional offense--throw it into O'Neal or throw it up from three-point country.
"The big rap on Utah for years," said Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek, "was that it was just John and Karl. Now, they can't just play John and Karl one-on-one. They'll get burned."
Anderson is a 6-6 small forward who can use his quickness to ring up numbers a power forward would be proud of, like the 11 rebounds he pulled down in 25 minutes in Game 1.
Friday, Anderson, finishing only his second year in the league, had his 13 points in only 21 minutes.
Russell, who starts at small forward, scored 17 in 25 minutes, hitting all six shots he attempted, including a trio from behind the three-point line.
And it was Russell who hammered in the knockout blow that put the Lakers on the endangered list for this postseason.
Russell got the ball from Stockton with 1:37 to play and swished home a three-point shot that put the Jazz ahead, 99-92, and sent the stunned Great Western Forum crowd to the exits
"I added another dimension to the team that we didn't have before," Russell said.
Another often overlooked player who again contributed Friday night was Morris. He had 15 points in 24 minutes.
"What really worked out for us is that Chris Morris and Shandon Anderson came up big," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "You need that off the bench in a series like this."
Russell, finishing his fifth year in the league, had a postseason career-high 12.3 scoring average last season, but he wasn't happy.
"I was in a fog last year in the playoffs," Russell said. "One year has helped me learn the system. I know everything that's going on out there now."
There is proof that even when you're playing in a fog, things can get better.
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* BENCH: The Jazz bench is not only pushing Karl Malone and John Stockton out of the headlines, but the Lakers out of the playoffs as well. Led by Chris Morris' 15 points and Shandon Anderson's 13, the Utah reserves outscored their Laker counterparts, 46-22.
* SHOOTING PERCENTAGE: For the third straight game, the Jazz connected on more than half their shots from the field while holding the Lakers under 50%. Despite the fact that Malone, perhaps bothered by the bandaged finger on his right hand, hit on only nine of 22 shots from the field, the Jazz, led by Bryon Russell's six for six, made 52% while holding the Lakers to 41.2%.
* FREE THROW PERCENTAGE: The worst free-throw shooting team in the regular season stayed true to form, bad form. The Lakers hit just 60.5% from the free-throw line while Utah connected at an 82.8% clip.