This will bring back painful memories to scores of Kings fans, like tearing off the bandage of an old wound and spitting on it.
Robert Horry. Kings-Lakers. Game 4. Big Shot Bob.
On Tuesday night in Portland, it was Big Game Dame, so to speak. Damian Lillard entered NBA playoff lore with his stunning game-winning 3-pointer in Game 5 of a Western Conference series over the outstretched hand of Paul George that set the league on full-throttle buzz mode.
Lillard eliminated Oklahoma City with a 37-foot bomb as time ran out for a 118-115 decision. Lillard scored 50 points and then raised his hand as to wave off the Thunder, admitting later, “That was having the last word.”
George, the defender, dismissed one of the league’s great playoff finishes. He said following the game, “That’s a bad shot. I don’t care what anybody says. That’s a bad shot. But hey, he made it.”
Yes indeed, so next question:
Is Horry around?
Horry won seven NBA championship rings, and he has said numerous times, including to The Bee, that his greatest moment was with the Lakers and sticking it to the Kings on May 27, 2002.
Trailing by two in the closing seconds in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals in Los Angeles, Horry scooped up the loose ball that Sacramento’s Vlade Divac swatted away after at-the-rim misses by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Then, everything went into slow motion.
Horry, at the top of the key, never hesitated. He unleashed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that splashed through, resulting in a 100-99 victory, utter fan bedlam in Staples Center and a shot for all time.
I covered that game and series for The Bee, a seat next to columnist Marcos Breton. We looked at each other as to wonder, “Did we really just see this, and can you hear me at all?”
My ears still ring at how unglued Staples became, and what Divac and teammate Chris Webber said later.
In short, the Kings captains were not impressed, and it came off as frustrated rivalry talk.
Said Divac then, “You don’t even think about who has the ball. I don’t think (Horry) tried to beat the clock. Just a lucky shot, that’s all.
“You don’t need to have skills in that kind of situation. Just throw it, and if it goes in, it goes in.”
Said Webber, “I’m not saying the Lakers lucked up and won the game. I said it was a lucky play – and it was a lucky play. Coach (Phil Jackson) didn’t draw that up. That wasn’t a second or third option. That was a lucky play, a fumble.”
Horry bristled at all of this.
He said then, in fired-up rivalry speak, “A luck shot is one of those guys who has no form. If you look at the shot, it was straight form. (Divac) shouldn’t have tipped it out there. It wasn’t a luck shot. I’ve been doing that for all my career. He should know. He should read the paper or something.”
Horry has a framed shot of his shot in his home.
Unlike the Lillard shot, the Horry make did not end the Kings’ season, but it left an indelible and permanent dent as a shot that forever stings the franchise. Had the Kings held on that night, Sacramento would have gone up 3-1 in the series with two of the final three games in the comforts of Arco Arena, the ultimate ear-ringing venue.
Mike Bibby won it for the Kings in Game 5 with a late jumper, the Lakers prevailed in a bizarre and oddly officiated Game 6 in L.A., and it came down to Game 7 back in Sacramento with the series tied 3-3.
The Kings lost Game 1 at Arco, and they collapsed in Game 7 in overtime, 112-106. Sacramento was undone in Game 7 by missed shots. The Kings made just 16 of 30 free throws, and they missed 18 of 20 from 3-point range.
O’Neal, a notoriously poor free-throw shooter, made 11 of 15 from the line in scoring 35. Horry had 16, and the Lakers went on to three-peat as NBA champions.
Doug Christie on Lillard: ‘Clean shot’
Doug Christie offers a unique view on all of this
As one of the league’s elite defenders, Christie checked Bryant on that last-second drive in the 2002 series. He told me Wednesday afternoon he thought something along the lines of, “I got you!” — and Kobe missed up close.
Was the Horry shot luck?
“It wasn’t luck, but Vlade gave him a great assist,” Christie said, allowing a laugh. “Horry wasn’t falling, wasn’t off balance, and he made a nice, clean shot.”
Christie said Divac did what Magic Johnson did in the 1991 playoffs against Portland, when the Lakers legend tapped out a loose ball, allowing the clock to run out, and for the Lakers to reach the Finals. Christie said an example of a lucky shot was in 1986. Ralph Sampson of the Rockets took an inbound pass as time was running out and tossed up a twisting prayer that dropped, eliminating the Lakers and sending Houston to the Finals.
And Lillard’s shot? A bad shot?
A great shot, Christie said. Now co-host with Grant Napear on the afternoon airwaves on Sports 1140 KHTK, Christie said George should have rushed Lillard.
“You’ve got to check the other end of the floor, the clock, and rush Lillard and his shot,” Christie said. “There are only a few snipers like that in the league, guys like Steph Curry, who can make that long of a shot. A lot of guys are bull’s eye in practice but not games. It’s a bad shot for 98 percent of the guys in the league. Not for Lillard. He’s really come into his own. Wow.”
Lillard a King?
And to think Lillard could have been a King adds to the angst of Kings followers.
The Kings pondered taking the point guard out of Weber State at No. 5 in the first round of the 2012 draft but elected for Kansas forward Thomas Robinson to muscle up the front line with center DeMarcus Cousins.
The pick made sense then. The Kings had acquired the draft rights to Jimmer Fredette the year before and had promising blur guard Isaiah Thomas on board.
NBA media sorts, locally and nationally, gave the Kings an A for the Robinson pick.
Lillard impressed in Kings pre-draft workouts. He thought he would be picked by Sacramento, which he would have embraced. Sacramento is some 82 miles from his Oakland roots.
Lillard went to Portland at No. 6, and he’s been a gem in Rip City from the start. He earned NBA Rookie of the Year and has played in four All-Star games.
Robinson averaged just under 5 points a game for the Kings and was shipped to Houston after 51 games for spare parts in Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich.
The NBA is every bit soap opera sometimes: as the ball twists and turns.