(Horry nails the Game 4 dagger. Photo courtesy of AP Photos)
Of all the clutch shots Robert Horry hit during his career, none was more dramatic as the one in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. The Lakers were trailing the series 2-1 and were behind in the game from the get-go. They were down by 20 after one quarter and trailed by as much as 24. But the Kings, limited to only seven players with the injury to Peja Stojakovic, lacked the stamina to put the Lakers away.
With 11 seconds remaining in the game, the Lakers had come all the way back. After chipping away in the second and third quarters, Los Angeles had posession, trailing 99-97. Kobe Bryant got the ball and drove past Doug Christie before getting stopped by the Kings' Vlade Divac. Bryant attempted a short floater that bounced off the front rim; Shaquille O'Neal grabbed the board and went up for an easy bank shot, but in his haste to put it in, he wedged it between the rim and the backboard; the ball would have caromed back to Shaq, but before he ccould snare it, Divac slapped it out to the top of the key.
Nine of the ten players on the court were standing around the rim, trying to rebound Kobe and Shaq's shots. The only person away from the basket was Robert Horry, who happened to be standing at the top of three-point arch, right where Divac slapped it to. Chris Webber and Doug Christie bolted at Horry, who launched a three-pointer as soon as he got it. As time expired, Horry's shot was nothing but net, giving the Lakers a win in which they trailed for all but 12 seconds.
For the Kings, it was the most miserable loss in franchise history. Leading 50-26 at one point, Sacramento managed only 34 points in the second half, six less than what they scored in the first quarter. In losing, they allowed the Lakers to make the largest first quarter comeback in history. LA had hit two miracle threes at the end of the first and second half; Samaki Walker hit a mid-court prayer at the end of the first, and Horry hit it at the end of the game. Two last-second heaves gave the Lakers six extra points, which were barely enough to close out the win.
For the Lakers, it was a second life on a lost season. Had they gone down 3-1, they would've had to win the final three games to advance to the Finals, a feat that no team had ever accomplished in the Conference Finals. The odds that a demoralized Lakers team would beat the Kings in Arco Arena twice in a row were slim to none. Robert Horry saved their skin.
"You don't think in that situation," Horry said. "You just go out and play. You just say, 'Give me the ball. I'm gonna shoot this and knock it down.' Most guys, when they think too much, they miss shots.
"Vlade hit it out and it was like, 'Oh, (gosh), look what I've got.' It was just a rhythm shot. I got to get my hop, skip and jump, and I put it in."
Horry was already known as one of the clutchest players in the league, but by killing the Kings on a last-second shot in one of the most epic series in history, whispers of a Hall of Fame induction began. When it was all said and done, Horry would win seven championships and was described as one of the best role players of all time.
Following their come-from-behind victory, the Lakers lost Game 5 when a potential game-winner from Horry rimmed in and out. They narrowly won Game 6, which was controversial for its apparent one-sided officiating favoring the Lakers. The series was set for a seventh and final game between the two heated rivals, a game in which 48 minutes weren't enough to decide the game.