EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- Kobe Bryant broke out with 36 points
and led a late rally as the Lakers edged the neophyte Nets, 106-103,
and moved within one win of their third straight championship.
Obscured by the imposing
shadow of Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant had quietly averaged 23 points
as the Lakers won the first two games. He had been reduced to
a complementary player as O'Neal destroyed the Nets in Los Angeles.
Hosting the first
Finals game in franchise history, the Nets went to double-teams
and zones that somewhat slowed O'Neal but opened up the floor
for the other Lakers -- specifically Bryant, who reminded everyone
that he also is one of the top players in the game.
he had not displayed in the first two games, Bryant made 14-of-23
shots. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including two
tough baskets over defensive demon Jason Kidd that kept the lead
at four points.
Nobody was confident
the Nets could dig their way out of their 2-0 hole. But one thing
you have to give them,they're a brave little crew. Too little
to deal with Shaq but brave enough to keep trying.
After two games of
trying to single cover O'Neal, a mistake no West team would make,
Scott finally tried double-teaming Sunday.
the Nets hadn't double-teamed all season, they didn't do it well.
They came softly and late, and Shaq had his usual 21 points by
halftime, by which time the Lakers had taken their usual double-figure
This time, however,
the Nets, who'd trailed by 23 points in each of the first two
games, were never down by more than 14.
Then, trailing, 78-70,
late in the third quarter, the Nets went on a blistering 14-0
run, with Kidd scoring six of the points and assisting on two
So the Lakers just
came from seven points behind in the last 6 minutes 44 seconds
with a notable contribution from Devean George, who'd been struggling
George made two
free throws and a follow dunk around a drive by Bryant to cut
the deficit to 94-93 with 4:39 left.
Kidd hit a jumper,
but O'Neal -- who was 11-of-17 from the line -- made two free
throws before finding Horry for a 3-pointer that gave LA the lead
for good with 3:04 to go.
On the next possession,
Bryant drilled a 22-footer from the left wing over Kidd, who made
a jumper off a scramble at the other end.
Then it was O'Neal's
turn. He spun left for a banker that beat the shot clock and made
it 102-98 with 58 seconds to play, then soared
to block a drive by Kidd 10 seconds later. But Bryant kept things
tense by missing a pair of free throws with 42 seconds left.
After Keith Van Horn
halved the deficit with a long jumper, Bryant dribbled into the
lane and nearly lost the ball to Kerry Kittles. But he grabbed
it and spun for a 10-footer over Kidd with 19 seconds to go.
Kidd made a 3-pointer
with 5.2 seconds left, but Rick Fox sank two big free throws.
With the Nets out of timeouts, Kidd's desperation runner from
30 feet bounced off the backboard, draining the emotional sellout
through a difficult East finals against the Boston Celtics, the
Nets concluded they had become a team of destiny. However, as
they are now finding out, there are a lot of possible destinies
and theirs was to get run over by the bigger, better and more