In 2002, it looked as if the Lakers dynasty was going to come to an end. In the upstart Sacramento Kings, the Lakers were facing their toughest test and a Game 7 on the road is something no team wants to face.
But that’s why the Lakers were such a great team, as they stepped up when it mattered most to escape Sacramento with a 112-106 overtime victory to advance to their third straight NBA Finals appearance.
Shaquille O’Neal posted 35 points and 13 rebounds, but more importantly made 11 of his 15 free throws. O’Neal and Derek Fisher combined to make all eight of their free throws in overtime.
This series is most remembered for Robert Horry’s legendary game winning shot in Game 4, but the entire series was a back-and-forth affair, much like the deciding game.
The difference in the end was the Lakers’ collective calm in the face of pressure. While the Lakers rose to the occasion, the Kings, other than point guard Mike Bibby, hesitated and seemed rattled.
There are moments when teams show their true colors. Some teams prove their championship mettle, others wilt under the immense pressure. On that night, there was no doubt who the true champions were.
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