After going up 2-0 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers traveled to Arco Arena. The Sacramento Kings had their backs against the wall in the Best-of-Five series. In Game 3, the Kings and Chris Webber turned the table in their favor as soon as the second half started. Tony Delk may have played the best fourth quarter of his career, and Shaquille O’Neal went cold. This was the game that Kobe Bryant cemented himself as a superstar. Bryant almost secured a win on his own scoring 35 points and 16 of the Lakers final 20. Ultimately the Kings momentum was insurmountable and they defended their home court successfully.
More of the same
Game 4 starts off fairly close to the way the previous ended- all Kings. Arco Arena was absolutely rocking, the crowd was into it from the warm ups. Kevin Harlan referenced the noise in the arena to an insane asylum. The first quarter saw Webber and Vlade Divac having their hands in nearly every play, on both offense and defense. Jason Williams hit an early three and the crowd erupted as the Kings went up 7-2. Bryant hit the teams first field goal 1:04 into the game; they didn’t connect on another bucket — sans free throws — for over six minutes when Ron Harper made a layup.
The Lakers starters came out of the first quarter shooting 5-19 and scoring a series low –up to this point– 18 points. Bryant and O’Neal combined for 2-8 in FG attempts. Glen Rice connecting on 5-5 of his free throws kept the game from being a complete blowout from the get-go. Williams got a technical foul when he thought Bryant pushed him as he drove the lane, and was called out of bounds. There is a lot of electricity in this building tonight and it’s pulsating through the Kings. Delk was still on fire from the previous game, coming off the bench and scoring five points in six minutes and 32 seconds. Divac totaled four points and six rebounds and held O’Neal scoreless while guarding him. Webber had a filled stat sheet after just 12 minutes with four points, three assists, three rebounds and three blocks.
Things are getting chippy
As the second quarter gets underway Peja Stojaković hits a hook in the lane to put the Kings up by 11. The Lakers looked like they were playing well and the stat sheet would show that it was similar to that of the Kings. Webber has — yet another — block, this time it’s on O’Neal and the crowd goes beserk. After Bryant hit an 11′ jumper and cut the Kings lead to single digits, things start getting dicey. As Robert Horry drives the lane Webber grabs him and sends Horry to the ground- hard. Initially the call is just a foul until the officials talk-it-over and turn it into a Flagrant 1.
The Lakers actually chipped the Kings lead away to five, until Jon Barry hits a three. Bryant converts the and-1 and then Rice gives a driving Webber a hard shot and the referee’s call a Flagrant on him as well. Hard-nosed, playoff basketball is fantastic, but you don’t want things getting out of hand. Despite having 11 points in the second quarter, O’Neal was sort of a non-factor as he couldn’t stop anyone on the defensive end.
The Kings had answers for everything that the Lakers did. Webber added another nine points and six rebounds, and the Kings “bench mob” of Stojaković, Jon Barry and Delk supplied 15 points to the Lakers one bench point in the second quarter. O’Neal cut the Kings lead to just three points at 43-46 with 2:29 remaining in the half. Nick Anderson and Barry hit back-to-back three-pointers and Williams made both free throws to bring their lead back to 11.
Bryant finishes a beautiful alley-oop from Harper as the first half comes to an end. Webber hits a baby-hook with :00.8 left as par-for-the-course in this game. The Lakers aren’t playing bad, they are just getting beat. It’s like when a boxer can only cover the head or the body, pick your poison.
Lakers heat up, but more of a simmer than a boil
The break at the half slowed down the Kings momentum. Good news for the Lakers, right? Well, they always couldn’t get much going either. Webber scored the Kings only points (4) in the first seven minutes and the Lakers just couldn’t capitalize scoring just six points. With the door opened to turn the game around, the Lakers missed four field goals and O’Neal couldn’t connect on both free throws. One of the shots made a an O’Neal layup while being triple teamed in classic “Shaq Diesel” fashion, where he just out muscles everyone on the court. Once the Kings cold streak ended they went on an 8-2 run bring their lead up to 8.
Bryant steals the ball right underneath the Lakers basket and score, while Divac grabs on to him. Bryant shoves Divac off and the world watches the flop maestro in action, resulting in Bryant receiving a technical foul. In similar fashion to trying to keep the game from getting out-of-hand it winds up as a double technical foul for both Bryan and Divac. “Kobe gets a great steal, and Vlade holds him. Then he holds him again and flops. I know that Kobe is not that strong,” Danny Ainge said on commentary.
The crowd is amped up even higher now as a result of the scuffle. With 29 seconds remaining Bryant hits “a dazzling array of moves” as Harlan would call it, resulting in a finger roll and a foul for a 3-point opportunity. The quarter ends with the Lakers on a 7-1 run. Is the crowd starting to simmer? Nope- they are chanting “Kobe sucks!” I love this game. Bryant led the way for the Lakers in the third with nine while they finally outscored the Kings 21-17.
Fourth quarter woes continue for Lakers
Much like in Game 3, the Lakers struggled to get running in the fourth quarter. Bryant led the team with 12 on 5-12 shooting while O’Neal, Rice, Brian Shaw, and Horry combined for 10 points only hitting three of their 13 shots. On the flip side, Webber and Divace combined for only eight points- but only missed a single shot. This quarter was all about the Kings bench doing what they do best- changing the game. O’Neal looks tired, as he’s been double and triple-teamed for the entire game a finishing with a hard-earned 25 points.
With the Lakers struggles to hit from outside, the Kings never had to extend their defense out. Much like the previous game, Bryant is keeping the Lakers afloat. Kings coach Rick Adelman told his team during a timeout that they needed to “deny Kobe the ball” but they were unable to. As Bryant catches fire throughout the fourth quarter, Barry hits a huge three and Webber follows it up with a dunk and it appears the Kings are going to close this one out with back-to-back wins.
While the rest of the team failing to hit shots, O’Neal and Bryant are really distributing the ball around, leaving several players wide open. This fourth quarter is slipping away despite Bryant heating up and trying to bring his team back. Webber added another two blocks to his total for the night, finishing with a staggering seven in total. The Lakers have no answer for Webber on either side of the floor tonight, whether he’s shutting down the post on defense or on the offensive side. The Kings were +20 while Webber was on the floor, and he was ultimately the difference maker in this game.
The silver-ish lining
The Kings led in this game for 47:02 minutes, the Lakers never had the lead throughout the entire game. Those 58 seconds missing from the Kings lead- the beginning of the game. The Lakers shot 38% to the Kings 44%; you’ve got no chance at winning a game if you can’t find the bottom of the hoop. The Kings bench outscored the Lakers 42-8, the Kings hit nine three-point shots to the Lakers three- all signs of how you lose a basketball game. The shining beacon for the Lakers is that Bryant and O’Neal both played well in this game. Bryant has 122 through 4 games of this series. The playoffs are where the all-time greats shine. These 2000 playoffs, he put the entire league on notice. The Lakers will regroup and head back to Los Angeles for the fifth and final game in this series on May 5, 2000.