The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, are considered by many to be the best team of that era and one of the best ever.
And now thanks to the Milwaukee Bucks’ gutsy victory in Game 4 of their second-round series against the Miami Heat, L.A. remains the last team to complete a sweep of a team with the NBA’s best regular-season record.
Despite the ’01 Lakers standing on many all-time great teams lists, it was the San Antonio Spurs who entered the playoffs with the league’s best record that season and most believed the Western Conference Finals between them would be an epic affair. But the Lakers had other plans.
They absolutely dominated the matchup of the last two NBA champions at the time, winning by an average of 22.2 points. And it got worse once the series shifted to Staples Center. The Lakers beat the Spurs by 39 points in Game 3 and 29 points in Game 4 as they effortlessly dispatched of the team most assumed would be their biggest challenge.
Bryant was on another level in this series, averaging 33.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.5 steals on 51.4% shooting. Shaq was no slouch either with averages of 27 points and 13 rebounds. Derek Fisher was massive as well in the series, as he averaged 17.5 points on an unbelievable 75% shooting from three-point range.
The Lakers’ defense was also on full display as they held the Spurs to a mere 81.3 points per game on 38.4% shooting from the field. The Lakers actually shot better from 3-point range (44.4%) in the series than the Spurs fared overall.
The Bucks were able to avoid joining the Spurs on this unfortunate list despite losing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo early in the second quarter. They came away with a 118-115 overtime win over the Miami Heat thanks to fellow All-Star Khris Middleton’s 36 points, but they still face an uphill battle as they trail the Heat 3-1 in the series.
Lakers rewarded for confidence in Rajon Rondo
Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo finally made his return to the team in Game 1 of the second-round series against the Houston Rockets, but struggled mightily in his first game back. Considering he hadn’t played a game since March, some rust was expected for Rondo.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were among those who didn’t lose hope in Rondo. They were rewarded for their confidence as he provided a spark in Game 2. Rondo finished with 10 points, 9 assists and was a plus-28 in 28 minutes.
“For us to have him back in the postseason, it’s key for our team. He comes in, pushes the tempo, gets guys involved,” James said after the Game 2 win. “That doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet with ‘Do, the intangibles he does offensively and defensively. His nose is always around the ball and he just make plays for us.”
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