Lakers hit late late shot, win in OT

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant came through in the clutch, saving the Lakers at the end of regulation and carrying them in overtime.

In the type of performance that cemented the star's status as one of the great performers in NBA history, Bryant tied the game with a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation and helped them pull away for good at the start of overtime to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the Detroit Pistons 99-91 Tuesday night in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Seconds away from facing a 2-0 deficit with the series headed to Detroit, the Lakers evened it at a game apiece behind Bryant's 33 points and seven assists.

The teams will go at it again Thursday night, each having earned a greater level of respect for their opponent. The Lakers now realize more than ever that the Pistons are anything but a pushover, while Detroit now knows that no victory is ever secure when the ball can end up in Bryant's hands for the biggest shot of the game.

Shaquille O'Neal added 29 points for the Lakers, six of them coming in the extra period as Los Angeles improved to 7-0 in overtime games during the regular season and postseason.

One of those victories came on the final night of the regular season at Portland when Bryant hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime, then won it at the end of the extra period with another 3 to give the Lakers the Pacific Division title.

This time, things looked fairly hopeless for the Lakers as they trailed by six points with less than 40 seconds left in regulation. But O'Neal converted a three-point play and Chauncey Billups missed a runner for Detroit, giving the Lakers a last shot.

Naturally, the ball went to No. 8. And naturally, Bryant drilled it over Richard Hamilton in the final seconds before running back to the bench to chest-bump teammate Devean George as Detroit called timeout to set up a last shot.

Rasheed Wallace let Tayshaun Prince's inbounds pass slip through his hands, and the clock expired without the Pistons attempting a final shot.

The momentum was squarely on the Lakers' side by then, and Los Angeles outscored Detroit 10-2 in the extra period to even the series.

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