After winning three straight NBA titles between 2000-2002, the Los Angeles Lakers came up short on winning a fourth consecutive title when when they were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals.
During the 2003 off-season, the Lakers knew that if they were to have any chance at getting back to the NBA Finals that they would have to go through San Antonio, and needed to get better as a team. So in order to fulfill that need, management brought in future NBA Hall Of Famers in Gary Payton and Karl Malone to play alongside the dynamic duo of Kobe and Shaq, making the Lakers seemingly unbeatable going into the 2003-2004 season.
Unfortunately, an injury-ridden season held the Lakers from performing up to expectations, and chemistry issues within the team would lead some to believe that this team wasn’t capable of winning a championship going into the 2004 NBA Playoffs.
However, in typical Laker fashion, this team flipped the “switch” on as the post-season commenced and looked more impressive than ever in the first round of the playoffs after eliminating the Houston Rockets in five games.
The biggest challenge for the Lakers en route to the NBA Finals in the 2004 season would come against their archrival in the San Antonio Spurs. That series would show the true potential of what this Laker team had the ability to become.
The Lakers and the Spurs were knotted up 2-2 going into Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2004. In the final moments of the matchup the Spurs seemingly had the game won when Tim Duncan buried an 18-foot leaning jump shot with 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock. With the Lakers having one final chance to win the game they looked to find their star Kobe Bryant for a quick shot.
On that final possession Bryant had been heavily pressured by Devin Brown and Robert Horry, forcing the in-bounder (Gary Payton) to pass the ball to Derek Fisher.
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Fisher managed to make one of the most difficult baskets in the history of basketball given the time remaining and the angle in which he shot the ball. That victory would be key for the Lakers as it would place them in perfect position to defeat the Spurs in six games and later make it to the NBA Finals.
Despite the fact that the 2004 Lakers did not win an NBA title, this shot will forever remain in Laker lore. Another classic shot, and another classic moment is the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.
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