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Bryant sees hard work behind Lakers’ lucky break

By Greg Beacham The Associated Press
Tuesday May 28, 2002

SACRAMENTO — No matter what the Sacramento Kings believe, Kobe Bryant knows it’s more than luck keeping the Los Angeles Lakers on track for their third straight championship. 

With Robert Horry’s riveting 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 4, the Lakers won 100-99 Sunday to even the Western Conference finals heading to Game 5 at Arco Arena on Tuesday night. 

The Kings, who blew a 24-point lead, were mystified and infuriated by the twist of fate that sent the loose ball straight toward Horry at the 3-point arc. 

If not for that bounce, the Kings said repeatedly, Los Angeles would be on the ropes in a series that’s living up to the expectations of those who think it will decide the NBA title. 

“I don’t think it matters whether they think it was a lucky shot or not,” Bryant said Monday. “I think it was a combination of skill and a little luck, which we earned because we worked to get back in the game.” 

That hard work — including Bryant’s physical defensive play after he was matched up with Kings point guard Mike Bibby — set the stage for a turn of momentum that could crumple the Kings. 

“It was a big shot, and it’ll always be remembered,” Kings guard Doug Christie said. “But it’s easier to forget in the playoffs. Plus, there’s only one day in between. We’ll get past it.” 

That’s easier said than done. The Kings spent Monday bolstering their collective mental state, which was sorely tested by Horry’s shot. Sacramento led for nearly 47 minutes, from the first three baskets until the moment Horry’s shot settled in the net. 

“It’s a recovery process from a loss like that,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “You have to deal with it, and however they deal with it is how they’re going to move on from there.” 

The outcome was another affirmation of the sense of destiny that follows any team with two championships. Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal both said they had no doubt Horry’s shot would fall — though neither superstar looked away from the hoop. 

Jackson was worried in the seconds preceding Horry’s shot. On the final possession, Bryant missed on a drive into the lane and O’Neal was short on a putback. Either shot would have tied the score. Then Vlade Divac blindly batted the ball to Horry. 

Destiny, Jackson knows, won’t take a team very far if its stars can’t come through in such situations. 

“Shaq could have been rushed or tired. I didn’t ask him,” Jackson said.