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

NBA Playoff Notebook: Kobe to the rescue

(Sports Network) – The Los Angeles Lakers were on the brink of going down
2-0 to the Detroit Pistons in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, but All-Star Kobe
Bryant knocked down a three with 2.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter to
send Game 2 into overtime.

In the overtime, the Lakers outscored the Pistons 10-2 and evened the set at a
game apiece with a 99-91 victory at the Staples Center in the second game of
the series.

Bryant scored 14 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter and in
overtime to lead LA to the crucial victory, as no team in history has ever
dropped the first two NBA Finals games at home and gone on to win the
championship. The 25-year-old Bryant logged 49 minutes, dished out seven
assists and was 14-of-27 from the floor for the Lakers.

“Obviously, it’s devastating for a situation like this to happen,” said
Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince after Game 2’s loss. “One of the greatest
winning players in the game made a shot that he does on a regular basis, so we
can’t hold our heads down about this one even though we should have won the
basketball game. We gotta go back home and face a tough Laker steam that plays
just as hard on the road as they do at home.”

Shaquille O’Neal also had a solid game for the Lakers, as he finished with 29
points and seven rebounds in 48 minutes of action. O’Neal was 10-of-20 from
the floor and made 9-of-14 from the foul line.

The All-Stars O’Neal and Bryant came through for LA during a desperate time.
They scored the final 16 points of the game for the Lakers to send the series
back to Detroit even.

The Pistons were led by their backcourt duo of Chauncey Billups and Richard
Hamilton. Billups, who was 13-of-14 from the charity stripe, ended with a
team-high 27 points and nine assists in 47 minutes played, while Hamilton
scored 26 points on 10-of-25 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds.

“You know, they made shots,” Detroit head coach Larry Brown said about
Billups and Hamilton’s play in Game 2. “I didn’t think Rip (Hamilton) had
one of his better nights in shot selection. But, you know, he had to shoot the
ball for us and Chauncey kept us in the game with some big shots when we
had to make our rally and Rasheed (Wallace) got us back in the game, and
we kind of forgot about going inside and that’s all we talked about.

All-Star Ben Wallace finished Game 2 with 12 points, a game-high 14 rebounds
and two blocked shots in 43 minutes of action. Ben Wallace is the catalyst
to Detroit’s tenacious defense and thinks the Pistons can bounce back from the
tough loss

“Not hard at all,” Ben Wallace said about the Pistons bouncing back from Game
2’s defeat. “The way we played the first half and to have an effort like we
did in the second half, it isn’t hard to bounce back. We just need to put
together a complete game like we did in the first game.”

The Lakers, who are 3-5 on the road in this year’s postseason, have won five
straight and six of their last seven road contests in the NBA Finals. The last
time LA lost a championship game on the road was to the Indiana Pacers on June
16, 2000 in Game 5 of the 2000 finals.

“Game 3 is going to be a very important game at their place,” said O’Neal.
“They play very well. It’s going to be loud in that arena.

The Pistons have been tough at home in this year’s playoffs, as they are
7-3 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in the postseason. However, the highly-
favored Lakers remain confident for Game 3.

“But, I still like our chances,” said O’Neal. “You know, we just have to go
play our game. This is nothing to do with us, we’ve won on the road many, many
times and we know how to get it done. We just have to play our game, and if we
do that, we should be fine. If we don’t do that, then it will probably be a
long night.”

The Pistons aren’t satisfied with just being in the NBA Finals or even leaving
LA with a split. Detroit knows what it has to do and seems to be ready for the
challenge.

“No, mission ain’t accomplished,” Rasheed Wallace said about leaving LA with a
split. “We’ve still got three more to get then it’s going to be accomplished.

Games 4 and 5 will also be played at The Palace.

DET LAL