The Lakers and the Spurs were knotted up 2-2 going into Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2004. In the final moments of the matchup the Spurs seemingly had the game won when Tim Duncan buried and 18-foot leaning jump shot with 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock.
With the Lakers having one final chance to win the game they looked to find their star Kobe Bryant for a quick shot. On that final possession Bryant had been heavily pressured by Devin Brown and Robert Horry, forcing the in-bounder (Gary Payton) to pass the ball to Derek Fisher.
Fisher managed to make one of the most difficult baskets in the history of basketball given the time remaining and the angle in which he shot the ball. That victory would be key for the Lakers as they would defeat the Spurs in six games and later make it to the NBA Finals.
This is by far the most memorable moment of the post-Shaq/pre-Gasol years that haunt Laker fans. On a night late in January where the Lakers primarily struggled against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe stole the show with his heroic effort to bring the Lakers back in the game and put on the greatest scoring performance in Lakers history. At the end of the half the Lakers trailed the 63-49, and Kobe had 26 points. Coming into the 3rd quarter, Kobe had enough of it and got hot from the field. The points began to rack up for and soon the entire basketball world realized that something special was in the making. By the end of the night, he finished with 81 points, and a moment that will forever remain in Laker lore.
3. Lakers Defeat Celtics In Game 7 To Win NBA Championship
The Lakers and Celtics topped off an epic NBA Finals series with one of the greatest Game 7s in NBA history. Regardless of the fact that he struggled for the majority of the game, Kobe Bryant came along in the fourth quarter and helped lead the Lakers to one of the most important victories in the franchise’s history.
Historically, the Lakers have struggled against the Celtics in Game 7s during the NBA Finals. Both teams had faced off in the epic scenario four previous times, with the Celtics emerging as the victor at the end of each series. Needless to say, winning that championship in that fashion meant a lot to Lakers fans from all generations, as a hate for the Celtics is something that all have in common.
2. Horry Saves The Day
Through the first three games of the Western Conference Finals in 2002, the Sacramento Kings had taken a 2-1 advantage on the Lakers. And going into Game 4, the Lakers knew that their season and three-peat hopes were virtually on the line if they didn’t get a victory. The Kings came out on fire in Game 4, taking a 40-20 lead after the end of the first quarter. The road to a victory would be an uphill battle for the Lakers, but it was an obstacle they would have to embrace if their desired another NBA title. They would slowly grind and chip their way back into the game, ultimately allowing themselves one chance to tie the game or win on the final possession.
1. Bryant…..To Shaq!
The greatest challenge for the Lakers en route to their NBA title in 2000 came during the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. After going up 3-1 against Portland, and looking as if they were on their way to the NBA Finals, the Blazers showed some pride in Games 5 and 6, storming back to tie the series at 3-3, forcing one more matchup at Staples Center.
The Lakers struggled for the vast majority of Game 7 (trailing by as many as 15 points) until the 4th quarter. With legacies on the line and the weight of the seasons expectations on their shoulders, the Lakers found the strength to fight back and provide one of the most memorable games in the storied franchise’s history. To send the Blazers home Kobe Bryant threw one of the best lobs in Laker history to Shaquille O’Neal. Solidifying their spot in the NBA Finals, as well as Laker history.
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