Thursday , Apr , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kobe’s late-game heroics give Lakers Pacific Division

=== Kobe’s late-game heroics give Lakers Pacific Division ===

Portland, OR (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant forced overtime with a three-
pointer and then won it with another three-point shot at the buzzer of the
second extra session, as the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted Portland, 105-104,
at the Rose Garden.

Bryant finished with 37 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Shaquille
O’Neal contributed 25 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles, which captured
the Pacific Division title and the second seed in the Western Conference by
virtue of Sacramento’s loss to Golden State.

The Lakers (56-26) will battle the seventh seeded Houston Rockets in the first
round of the playoffs. Los Angeles heads to the postseason with victories in
14 of its last 17 contests.

Damon Stoudamire’s driving layup with 2.2 seconds remaining in the second
extra period had given the Trail Blazers a 104-102 lead.

On the final possession for Los Angeles, Portland was called for a foul after
the ball bounced away on the inbounds pass. However, the Blazers had a foul to
give, so the Lakers were forced to throw the ball in again with one second
remaining. Bryant received the pass from Gary Payton and drained a fadeaway
three-pointer over Theo Ratliff to give Los Angeles the victory.

Zach Randolph paced the Trail Blazers with 21 points and 18 boards. Derek
Anderson netted 17 points and Darius Miles added 16 for Portland (41-41),
which failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time in 22 seasons.

“Although we’re not in the playoffs, I am very excited about this team,” said
Portland head coach Maurice Cheeks. “This is a team that is going to be
successful for years to come. This team is going to get back in the playoffs
and make a few runs in the next few years.”

Stoudamire ended with 13 points and 12 assists, while Ratliff collected 12
points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“It was a great game in so many ways. Kobe just hit two amazing shots,” said
Randolph. “It just means we have to spend the whole summer working harder and
harder to get better. We’ve got to find a way to win games like this and not
lose them.”

Bryant’s three-pointer with 1:42 left in the second overtime put the Lakers in
front 100-97, but Stoudamire answered with a three-point shot 17 seconds later
to knot the contest.

The teams then traded baskets, setting up the final sequence.

O’Neal’s basket with 2:46 left in the first overtime gave Los Angeles a 93-89
lead. Portland then scored the next six points, including four by Randolph, to
take a two-point edge.

O’Neal was then fouled on a successful layup attempt. However, he failed to
complete the three-point play and the game was tied at 95-95 with 30.8 seconds

Portland was unable to get off a quality shot on its next possession and the
Lakers got it back with 4/10ths of a second left. Bryant then missed a
desperation three-point shot at the buzzer and the teams went to a second
extra session.

Anderson’s three-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter
staked Portland to a 79-74 lead.

The Lakers then went on an 8-2 spurt, culminated by Bryant’s three-pointer, to
grab their first lead of the contest at 82-81 with 3:20 left.

The Trail Blazers responded with a 6-2 run, highlighted by four points from
Anderson, to move back in front 87-84 with 1:07 remaining in regulation.

Bryant was then fouled, but missed a pair of attempts from the stripe. After
Stoudamire and Bryant each misfired on three-point shots, the Blazers’ Ruben
Patterson was fouled with 8.9 seconds left. However, he missed both free throw
tries, leaving the door open for the Lakers.

Bryant then drained an off-balance three-pointer under heavy pressure with one
second remaining to force overtime.

Portland scored the first six points of the game and stretched the lead to
14-7 on a pair of free throws by Miles with 7:43 left in the opening quarter.
The Trail Blazers led 28-22 after 12 minutes.

In the second quarter, Ratliff’s jumper with 7:05 remaining in the period gave
Portland a 39-31 advantage. The margin reached nine at 46-37, but Los Angeles
closed the stanza with an 8-4 run to pull within five at the intermission.

Miles ended the first half with 12 points, while O’Neal also netted 12 in the
opening 24 minutes to lead Los Angeles.

The Lakers continued to chip away and cut the deficit to 50-49 on two foul
shots by Slava Medvedenko with 9:07 left in the third quarter.

Portland then responded with a 9-0 spurt, keyed by Randolph’s three-point
play, to increase the margin to 10. The Trail Blazers held a 66-59 advantage
after 36 minutes.