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Horry Expects Lakers to Re-energize

Game 7: Forward, like his teammates, is tired after wrapping up grueling series with Sacramento, but figures the team will recover in time to face New Jersey.

June 03, 2002|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The Lakers had just won a seventh game on the road for the first time in their history, they had to go into overtime to do it and they probably should have been tired. Robert Horry stared straight ahead to the NBA Finals and checked his schedule.

"What day is it today?" Horry said. "Sunday?"

"What day do the finals start? Wednesday?"

"Oh, we got enough gas."

That would be good news for the Lakers, who may not be as tired as they are relieved after shedding themselves of those persistent Sacramento Kings, 112-106, in front of a cowbell-ringing, decibel-destroying sellout crowd of 17,317 at Arco Arena.

Next up, of course, are the New Jersey Nets, and you know all about them. Horry provided an early scouting report.

"They have a nice little team," he said.

It must be comforting for the Eastern Conference champions to hear they have a nice little team. As for the Kings, the end of their season didn't end all that nicely, at the hands of the Lakers for the third consecutive year.

It could have gone the other way, but didn't, a circumstance that can be traced to the usual places--35 points by Shaquille O'Neal and 30 by Kobe Bryant--but also to some unexpected sources, courtesy of the Kings. There was some classic masonry work done by Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic at exactly the wrong time, not to mention 14 missed free throws out of 30.

Horry offered a blunt assessment.

"They didn't know what they were doing down the stretch," he said.

On the other hand, the Lakers knew exactly what they were doing, coming back from a 3-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series and having to win the deciding game on the road. So what if they had never done it before. Maybe it was just like Horry said. He wanted a chance for another championship ring that would give him five.

"One for each finger," he said.

But before the quest for more jewelry for Horry and the rest of the Lakers could continue, there was this matter of the Kings to settle. Rick Fox, who said he had heard more than once that the Lakers were toast and got upset about it, all but predicted a Laker victory over the Kings.

"It could conceivably come off as arrogance, I know, but I just knew with our history, we would find a way to win on the road," he said. "It is not a fluke. We have it in us."

Mostly what Fox had was 14 rebounds, more than anyone on the court. Fox also had seven assists, more than any Laker except for Derek Fisher, who also had seven. Horry's 16 points and 12 rebounds, plus four clutch free throws by Fisher in overtime, should prove the main point of Fox. The Lakers are O'Neal and Bryant, but they go slightly deeper than that.

Fox said he had something to get off his chest and this seemed as good a time as any to do it.

"We were criticized often in this series--'The Lakers can't get it done'--well, we still have the heart of a champion."

The best way to describe the series, according to Fox, is one word: "Brutal."

It's also the best way to describe the Kings when the game was on the line.

"There's a lot of tension and you could see it when those jumps shots that didn't draw iron. There is tension for both teams. But if someone has never been here before, you just don't understand it," Fox said.

What Fisher understood was the bottom line, which each Laker clearly understood.

"We are fortunate to get out of here with a win," he said.

Horry picked up where Fox left off, on the Laker underdog theme, as implausible as that may sound since this is a two-time defending-champion team you're talking about. But Horry should be allowed to have his say, on an occasion such as this.

"We got a lot of people saying we couldn't do it. We couldn't do it in Sacramento's house. We stayed calm and did it," Horry said.

And what of another issue, the entire Laker bench producing a total of five points? The Lakers promise to stay calm this time, too, Horry insists.

"We don't care about that," he said. "We like it that way. Then we can come up and bite you ... and feel a lot better about it."

*(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Support Staff

A look at numbers for Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the second half and overtime:

O'NEAL

FG-FGA...5-15 (33.3%)

FT-FTA...7-10

Rebounds...8

Points...17

BRYANT

FG-FGA...2-7 (28.6%)

FT-FTA...6-8

Rebounds...3

Points...11

REST OF TEAM

FG-FGA...11-24 (45.8%)

FT-FTA...6-6

Rebounds...17

Points...32

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