Game 7 Western Conference Finals Blazers vs. Lakers June 4, 2000
If you are a fan of Portland or of LA, you would know these two don’t like each other. You can go as far back as 1977 when Portland swept the Lakers out of the Western Conference Finals en route to their only championship. But I digress. I’m here to talk about the year 2000. This was already a heated rivalry before this playoff matchup. The Lakers had Shaq & Kobe to go along with names like Horry, Green, Rice, Harper and Fisher to name a few. Adding Phil Jackson to coach was a stroke of genius as we all know. Portland had assembled a roster of All-Stars. Pippen, Wallace, Stoudamire were part of the starting lineup with Sabonis (you remember him) and Smith. Wells and Schrempf came off the bench. This was a great series that was all Lakers in the first four games. Final scores starting with game 1: 109-94, 77-106, 93-91, 103-91. Game two was won by Portland. The Lakers had home court, but when game five started, Portland was motivated to push the Lakers to seven games with victories in games five and six. Game five’s final 96-88 came in LA and game six 103-93 came in Portland. Would this supposed dynasty in LA start or would it crumble before our eyes after being up 3 games to 1?
Both teams to start Game 7 were going back and forth. Portland had an early 23-16 lead after the first quarter. As with all game seven’s, the stars were not going to rest for very long. Portland was going to count on Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace and Steve Smith to win it for them. The Lakers were counting on Shaq and Kobe, but Glen Rice, Robert Horry and another person which I will reveal shortly were instrumental in helping LA pull it off. Portland continued with a good second quarter, but LA was only down by three. 39-42 Portland at halftime.
The third quarter could not have gone any better for Portland. They got out to a great start building at what point was a 15 point lead. 29 points were scored in the quarter by Portland to the 19 scored by LA. 58-71 Portland going into the fourth quarter. I remember thinking that I must be dreaming. This is a nightmare. They were up 3 games to 1 just a few days ago. Now they are about to let the Portland Jail…I mean Trail Blazers advance to the Finals. Of course I wasn’t the only one thinking that. Staples Center was silent like much of LA. There was no worries though. When you have great players, they will shine at the right moment in a game.
Now the player that I have not mentioned yet that was instrumental in the Lakers comeback was…give up. Brian Shaw. I know, who would’ve thought that. Shaw dropped almost all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter including 9 from the three point line. That got the crowd back in it and more importantly Shaq and Kobe. Rice was hitting big shots, as was Horry aka Big Shot Bob. Now Portland had no idea what was going on because before they knew it, they were only up by 5, 4, 3, 2…see where this is going. The play that gave the Lakers the lead for good will be etched in Lakers fans memories forever. “Kobe drives down the lane. Here comes the double team, Kobe lobs it up in the air. There’s Shaq SLAM DUNK!!! Lakers take the lead.” That was my best attempt at imitating what the call might have been from Chick Hearn. Final 89-84 Lakers to the Finals. LA scored 31 in the fourth quarter to Portland’s 13. A collapse by the Blazers, but a championship performance by the Lakers.
Now why is this game a bigger moment than any of the Lakers finals games this decade you ask. Well, for one, most of the Lakers finals games were blowouts. There were a few exceptions. 2000 Game 5 at Indiana, 2001 Game 1 against Philadelphia. That’s pretty much it. The main reason is that this was the start of what would be the dynasty everyone expected out of these Lakers teams with Shaq and Kobe. They had to earn it of course and what better way to earn it than beating an arch rival to get to that championship. This was the start of something every Lakers fan wanted to see. An excuse to take a day off from work to celebrate in the Lakers championship parade.