Massive center Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out. The Indiana Pacers were threatening to tie the NBA Finals, and the Los Angeles Lakers were on the verge of disaster.
Up stepped Kobe Bryant, who scored eight of his 28 points in overtime to lift the Lakers past Indiana 120-118 in Indianapolis, Wednesday, giving Los Angeles a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"This is the game you dream about as you're growing up," Bryant told the AP. "You lose yourself in the moment. You're consumed by the game."
Bryant scored three times when the Pacers pulled within a point, twice from outside on long jump shots and the last with 5.9 seconds remaining off a Brian Shaw miss.
Nothing the Lakers say will convince Indiana's Sam Perkins that Bryant was anything less than in perfect health.
"There's nothing wrong with that man's ankle. I'm sure he turned it, but it was a big conversational piece all week and he played well," Perkins said.
Lakers' coach Phil Jackson said, "Kobe was great. He carried us in that period of time, he smelled it at the end of the game, his opportunity came when Shaq was out, and lifted us."
Reggie Miller finally made a basket in the fourth quarter. Rik Smits finally found his shooting touch. But errors in clutch situations kept the Indiana Pacers from a much-needed triumph.
Miller scored 35 points, 13 in the fourth quarter and six in overtime. Smits had eight of his 24 points in the extra period after making his first five shots to spark Indiana to an early 10-point edge - (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)