Wednesday , Jun , 09 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kobe in the clutch: Lakers steal Game 2

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant hit a game-tying three-pointer
with 2.1 seconds left in regulation and scored four points in overtime, as the
Lakers escaped with a 99-91 victory over Detroit to knot the NBA Finals at one
game apiece.

Bryant finished with 33 points and Shaquille O’Neal added 29 for the Lakers,
who rebounded from an 87-75 loss in Game 1 and a six-point deficit in the
final minute of regulation to avoid perilous territory.

No team in history has ever dropped the first two NBA Finals games at home and
gone on to win the championship. But the Lakers don’t have to wrestle with
that fact anymore — they’re headed to Detroit for Game 3 on Thursday with
some much-needed momentum.

“Hopefully this will carry us through the remainder of the series,” Bryant
said.

Chauncey Billups led Detroit with 27 points, including 20 after halftime.
Richard Hamilton added 26 points for the Pistons, who scored just two points
in the five minute overtime.

The Pistons looked to be in control after Ben Wallace’s second dunk in a
matter of minutes gave them an 89-83 lead with 47 seconds remaining in the
fourth quarter.

But the Lakers fired off six quick points to tie it: O’Neal completed a three-
point play with a line-drive free throw after a tough layin in the lane and,
after Billups missed at the other end, Bryant hit his clutch shot with
Hamilton in his face.

“As far as my professional career, it’s probably the biggest shot I ever hit,”
said Bryant, who then recalled a bigger shot he made for Lower Merion High
School in Pennsylvania.

“Kobe made a great shot,” Detroit coach Larry Brown said. “A great player made
a great shot.”

O’Neal and Bryant scored the final 16 points of the game for LA, including
those six late in regulation. O’Neal opened the overtime period with a bucket
just 14 seconds in, and Bryant scored exactly a minute later to make it 93-89.

The Pistons didn’t get on the board in overtime until the 2:44 mark when
Hamilton hit a runner to make it 95-91. It had been 3:04 since Wallace’s
second dunk gave them their six-point edge in regulation.

“We just kind of lost our poise,” Brown said.

Bryant followed Hamilton’s bucket with a bank shot at the other end for a six-
point LA lead, and O’Neal capped the scoring with a dunk moments later.

“We’re crushed,” Brown said. “We had a winnable game and everybody in that
locker room is down. We just gotta bounce back.”

The Lakers improved to 10-1 at home in these playoffs, the lone setback coming
on Sunday when they managed just 34 points in the second half.

Despite O’Neal’s foul trouble (5 fouls), the Lakers had control of this one in
the third quarter, holding three different 11-point leads. But Detroit used a
13-3 run to pull within 59-58 with three minutes left in the period.

Hamilton hit a key three-pointer during the run and Billups — who scored 16
points in the quarter — capped it with a pair of free throws.

Billups hit a three later on when the Pistons trailed by six, and added two
more free throws to finish 8-of-8 from the line in the quarter.

“Chauncey kept us in the game when we had to make our rally,” Brown
acknowledged.

The Pistons then trailed 68-66 heading into the fourth, but Lindsey Hunter’s
three-pointer inside the 10:00 mark of the fourth gave them a 71-68 edge,
their first lead since it was 30-29 in the second quarter.

The teams went back and forth after that, with the largest lead coming on
Wallace’s dunk late in the fourth.

“I lectured the team about the third quarter, and to rebuild momentum it took
us almost a half a quarter,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We just had to
get the right mind set.”

In the first quarter the Lakers got five points from their bench, which scored
just four points on 1-of-12 shooting in all of Game 1. Luke Walton had two and
Kareem Rush made a three-pointer in the final minute that gave LA its 18-16
lead at the end of the period.

The game was tied at 31 inside the 5:00 mark of the second quarter, but the
Lakers ended the half with a 13-5 run to lead 44-36 at intermission.

Bryant and O’Neal combined for 25 points in the first half, with Bryant
scoring 13 on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor.

Walton played 12 minutes before the break and scored seven points with five
assists after averaging less than five minutes per game in the playoffs. He
didn’t score after halftime, but ended the game with eight assists in 27
minutes.

“I always loved big games, and I was just hoping I’d get my chance,” Walton
said. “Coach gave me a chance tonight.”

The Lakers shot 41 percent in the first half to 35 percent for the Pistons,
who got a team-high 12 points from Hamilton.

Rasheed Wallace sat out the entire second quarter with two fouls. He finished
the game with 11 points in 34 minutes for the Pistons.

DET LAL