While the NBA is still on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a desperate itch for some basketball coverage; I decided to dive into my memory bank and run through some classic material. Low-and-behold, I stuck gold. Purple and gold that is, as the 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings playoffs were underway. These Western Conference battles in the late 90’s between the Lakers, Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trailblazers are all classics.
Exactly 20 years ago today, the Lakers traveled to Sacramento for Game 3 of their playoff series. Now, Game 1 and Game 2 already had been played prior to the release of this piece — for the sake of date anniversary — but, here is a quick overview of those games.
Game 1 saw the Lakers taking care of business at the Staples Center as they beat the Kings 117-110. Shaquille O’Neal dominated the game from the opening tip, finishing with 46 points and 17 rebounds. Kobe Bryant supplied 23 points shooting 11-22 from the floor. Chris Webber led the way for the Kings with 28, scoring 14 of those in the first quarter. Jason Williams totaled 20 points, while Tony Delk came off the bench for 17 points. The battle on the boards was easily won by the Lakers 54-37, and they had nine blocks to the Kings five.
Game 2 was a blow out. A 113-89 win put the Lakers at a 2-0 advantage as the Kings just couldn’t get anything going on either side of the floor. The Kings shot a measly .456 from the floor and had 12 turnovers.
Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 Game 3
The Lakers saw the momentum shift in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The first quarter saw more of the same, as the Lakers got ahead 28-22 after the first twelve minutes. O’Neal picked up two fouls early on, and only saw action for eight minutes, scoring six in that span. Fellow starters Ron Harper, Glen Rice, A.C. Green and Bryant all stayed on the floor for the entire period, with Bryant leading the way scoring 10. On the Kings side of the ball Webber totaled 10 points and six rebounds in the first quarter. Vlade Divac and Williams got in on the action scoring six and four respectively.
Lakers: 28 Kings: 22
In the second quarter the Kings outscored the Lakers by a point, cutting the lead to five points at 46-51. O’Neal almost out-rebounded the Kings by himself grabbing nine to the Kings 11. As the substitutes rolled in, Peja Stojaković gave the Kings seven points off the bench, and the Lakers Deavan George scored four, hitting 1-1 from behind the arc. While on the floor in the second quarter, Webber added another six to his point total, and finished the half with 16; also having a +7 point differential for the quarter as well, the first time he’s been on the plus-side in a quarter for the series.
Lakers: 51 Kings: 46
Halftime adjustments are key
While the third quarter may have ended in a stalemate with both teams scoring 20; this was where the momentum shifted. O’Neal went cold hitting just 1-7 from the floor and 2-5 free throws. The Lakers shot only 33.3% from the floor in the third quarter and went over five minutes without a field goal. Bryant hit a layup with 6:55 remaining, and their next score from the floor came when Rice hit a 15 footer as the time read 1:38. Bryant picked up his fourth foul, the Lakers had gone cold- Phil Jackson needs to make some adjustments if he wants to hang on to this game.
Lakers: 71 Kings: 66
The Lakers can’t hold off the surge
As the 17,317 fans inside Arco Arena that night sensed that their team could finally break through the glass ceiling when the fourth quarter started, and the Lakers continued their cold streak. It was such a close battle that the Kings only saw themselves down by two points, 70-72, with Divac making the only basket and Delk hitting 2-2 free throws. After two offensive rebounds, Delk found Jon Barry who passed to a wide-open Stojaković, hitting the three- giving the Kings their first lead late in a game of the series, 73-72.
The Lakers first field goal of the final quarter came on an O’Neal dunk with 9:27 remaining in the game. After baskets were traded back-and-forth the Kings go on a 14-point run to take a 87-78 lead. Jackson does not call a timeout; instead, let’s his team try and play through the run without burning a crucial timeout.
The Kings bench outscored the Lakers 34-11 during the game and proved to be the ultimate difference maker in this one. Bryant scored 16 of the Lakers 20 points in the fourth quarter, and kept them afloat. The way he was playing, it really appeared that he could take over the game and possibly secure the win on his own- if given a few more minutes. This game will forever be when I remember Bryant becoming a full blown superstar in the league, and he never looked back.
If this loss was heartbreaking for Lakers fans, stay far away from Game 4. But do come back for the fifth game, that one you’ll be alright with.