Robert Horry's Game 4 Buzzer-Beating Game-Winner against the Kings Deserves a Deep Rewind
It's May 26, 2002. Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals is taking place between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the Lakers down by 2 and less than 10 seconds remaining, one of the NBA's winningest franchises is very close to succumbing to an insurmountable 3 games to 1 deficit.
And while the Kings are in a great spot to win on the road, they probably shouldn't even be in this extremely stressful situation.
If the Kings can hold on for the win, they'll be one step closer to reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in over 50 years. All they need is a defensive stop without fouling.
And for the Lakers, they need a clutch contested shot to avoid losing their second straight home game against their in-state rival.
But there's so much more happening here besides just a potential 3-1 series edge or 2-2 series tie.
To fully appreciate the magnitude of what happens next for both team's fan bases, we have to do our diligence. We have to research as much as possible. In layman's terms, we need to rewind.
Down by 2 and the clock ticking, the Lakers are in a precarious spot. They can either go for the win with a 3, or try to make a contested mid-range jumper and play for overtime.
The Lakers used to own the Kings in the postseason. Shaquille O’Neal even compared the team to their female counterpart in the monarchy system.
The Kings are now playing the Lakers for the third straight time in the postseason. After narrowly pulling off an 8-seed vs. 1 upset in 2000, Sacramento is trying to avenge last season’s playoff sweep at the hands of the two-time defending champions.
Going into the 2002 postseason, the Kings were 0-and-5 in all 5 of their road games at the Staples Center. But things are different this time around, as the Kings won Game 3 in LA just two days ago.
And with summer less than a month away, the Kings are seconds away from taking a very important 3 games to 1 edge.
But the team with the Western Conference’s best record shouldn’t probably be in this spot. Let me explain.
Sacramento led by 20 points at the end of the first quarter, and they increased its cushion to as many as 24 after a dunk by Hedo Turkoglu (HE-doh TURK-uh-lew) gave his team a 48-24 lead early in the second quarter.
The Lakers then made it respectable by becoming lethal from downtown. Six of their last eight points were via the three-pointer, including a buzzer beater by Samaki Walker at the end of the first half.
Still, the Lakers are nowhere near their usual dominance against the Kings. A 14-point halftime deficit is certainly better than 24, but with Mike Bibby scoring 15 of his 18 team-leading points away from the three-point line, the Lakers are basically getting destroyed off the dribble.
Every single Lakers starter has +/- worse than a Minus 5. Devean George’s 7 points off the bench are quite possibly keeping Los Angeles in the game.
And for the Kings, they can practically smell a trip to the NBA Finals. All they have to do is hang on for the dub.
A 65-51 lead at halftime doesn’t guarantee victory of course, but the Kings can smell blood after getting swept by the Lakers during last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.
The Kings are one step closer to achieving something they haven’t done since they used to play in Rochester, New York. Reach the NBA championship round.
During the infancy days of the National Basketball Association, the small market Rochester Royals defeated the New York Knickerboxers 4 games to 3. It was a big win for the NBA as it proved to the fans even small markets could compete with the top media markets and glamor of New York City and Boston.
However, even after the team moved to the Rochester War Memorial arena in 1955, the Harrison brothers were forced to move the team to Cincinnati in 1957. And while the Cincinnati Royals got close to getting back to the NBA Finals in 1963, those pesky Boston Celtics eventually defeated them 4 games to 3 during the Eastern Conference Finals.
In those days, the EC Finals were known as the Division Finals, and the Royals returned to the Division Finals in 1964. This time around, Boston easily took care of Cincinnati in 5 games, despite Oscar Robertson scoring at least 30 points in 3 of those games.
Robertson, Jerry Lucas, and the Royals returned to the playoffs three straight seasons from 1965-1967, only to meet their kryptonite in the Philadelphia 76ers and the aforementioned Celtics. And by the time 1972 came around, the Kings were forced to relocate between Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska. Kansas City became the Kings’ permanent home during the 1975-76 season, and they stayed there until the 1985 regular season concluded.
The last time the Kings advanced to the NBA’s version of the Final Four, they played their home games in Kansas City. The Houston Rockets took care of the KC Kings in 5 games that series.
And even during their time in Kansas City, the Kings got swept by the Lakers during the playoffs. That time around, it took place in the 1984 postseason.
So if NBA fans take their Kansas City days into account, the Kings are 0-for-3 in the playoffs against Los Angeles. And for Kansas City fans who still follow the team now that they’re in the capital of California, it’s personal.
So if the Lakers think Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber and crew are going to ease up on the home team in the second half, they have another thing coming. Not only have the Lakers been a thorn in Sacremento’s side, but they also had the Utah Jazz on the rope during the 1999 NBA playoffs, only to lose by 1 in Game 4 and during overtime of Game 5.
But the Lakers have more than just Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to bail them out of trouble. Robert Horry, or Big Shot Bob as he’s sometimes called, is no stranger to the pressure cooker.
When Horry was in Houston, the Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles during the Michael Jordan-brief-retirement years. Incredibly, Horry was almost a Detroit Piston, but the Horry-for-Sean-Elliot-one-for-one deal was rescinded once Elliott failed a physical because of health problems. According to Horry, when Elliot failed his physician, it inevitably saved his career.
Horry then rewarded his Rockets team with a game-winning jump shot during Game 1 of the 1994 Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and then basically iced Game 3 of the NBA Finals with a three-pointer to make it 104-100 Rockets with 14.1 seconds left. The Rockets of course defeated the Spurs and swept the Magic to win the NBA championship.
Horry, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajawon, and the Rockets then rallied as a 6-seed in the Western Conference to win a second straight NBA title in 1995. However, after coming short of a three-peat in 1996, Houston’s front office decided to move Horry, Sam Cassell, and a couple of other players to Phoenix in exchange for future Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.
The Phoenix trade didn’t work out that well for Horry, and after Horry had a notable on-court altercation with head coach Danny Ainge, Horry’s towel throw at his head coach made his days in Phoenix numbered.
The Lakers pounced at the chance of acquiring a two-time NBA champion, and it only cost them Cedric Cabellos in the 1997 deal. The Horry trade was done to give the team more of a veteran presence than a legitimate scoring threat as Big Shot Bob averaged more than 11 points per game in just one of his Houston seasons.
While not a big factor in the postseason the last two NBA Finals appearances for the Lakers, Horry was still big against the 76ers during the 2001 Finals. Twelve of his 15 total points game during the fourth quarter of Game 3. During Game 4, Horry knocked down 3 of the Lakers 10 three-pointers en route to the win.
Would Horry be needed down the stretch of this crucial Game 4? Quite possibly since he basically stole away the starting power forward job from Samaki Walker.
And by the time the third quarter ended, Horry was once again a thorn in the opponents’ side. The last three points of the quarter came because of Horry as the former Rocket and Sun drained 3 of his 4 shots from the free-throw line.
Just like that, the once proud 65-51 lead for the Kings is now just 80-73 entering the fourth quarter.
But the Kings need more from Bibby if they’re going to notch the victory. After scoring 18 in the first half, Sacramento’s starting point guard has become a ghost. Bibby scored just 3 points in the second half, and the Kings now have to rely on Vlade Divac (VLAH-dee DEE-vahts) to get them critical buckets down the stretch.
In a twist of fate, Divac used to play for the Lakers. But when Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, Lakers general manager Jerry West fleeced the Hornets with the trade of the century by giving them Divac for the 18-year-old hooper.
While Divac is not a terrible player by any means, Bryant is one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players.
Divac wasn’t happy about the trade, and he originally threatened to retire rather than move to North Carolina. However, the Serbian center relented on his retirement idea, and the trade became official on July 9, 1996.
So not only are the Kings trying to avoid several postseason disappointing finishes at the hands of the Lakers, but Divac would like nothing better than to stick it to his former employer.
And he’s played great in the second half, finishing with 12 points. His 17-footer made it 98-93 Kings with just 1:17 remaining.
Still, it would’ve been nice if Divac had made both of his free throw attempts with under 12 seconds to go. As it currently stands, the Lakers need a two-pointer or two shots at the charity to force overtime.
In a crazier twist of fate, Shaq made both of his free-throws to keep it a 1-point deficit. Of all the people to knock down free-throws, Shaq would be at the bottom of the list for Lakers fans who trust players at the charity stripe. The future NBA Hall of Famer once missed 11 free-throws in a game against the Seattle Supersonics.
But Shaq, of all people, made the Kings pay for fouling him. And because of his clutch free-throws, a three-pointer can win the game.
But there’s no way the Lakers can win the game on a 3, right? Well, anything’s possible, and with Big Shot Bob in the game, never say never.
In fact, Horry is the only Laker the team trusts with a potential game-winner on the line. Derek Fisher is an atrocious 1-of-7 from behind the arc. Kobe has only attempted 1 three, and head coach Phil Jackson has decided to not put Devean George back into the game since he’s 0-for-3 from deep range.
Alright. Here we go. The Lakers need a two-pointer to force overtime or a three-pointer to even up the series. The Kings just need a defensive stop. If they can force the Lakers to brick on this possession, Sacramento can put the series on ice with a win back in Northern California. Shaq once called their opponent the “Sacramento Queens,” and if the Kings are playing like a women’s basketball team, they certainly look like a juggernaut from the WNBA.
It’s Kings 99, Lakers 97 with under 12 seconds to go. Welcome to a moment in history.
Big Shot Bob to the rescue once again! What a way to end it. Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.