During the Kobe-Shaq era, the Los Angeles Lakers had their fair share of rivals with two standing out amongst the rest. No team in the Eastern Conference could stand up to the Lakers once the NBA Finals came around, but the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers gave Phil Jackson’s squad a run for their money on more than one occasion.
Seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry reflected on the three championships he won in Los Angeles recently and talked about the rivalry with the Kings and Blazers. Although many believe that the Sacramento series was the Lakers’ toughest test during their run to three straight NBA titles, Horry begs to differ, via TWCSportsNet:
“Everyone talks about the rivalry with Sacramento, but that Portland team was… to win that first championship. That was in my mind more than Sacramento, because that team was Sabonis, Rasheed Wallace, Steve, Smith, Scottie and that team was a monster team.”
The Blazers forced the Shaq-led Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Finals back in 2000 and seemingly had the series in hand during Game 7. Portland had a 15-point lead and were cruising in the fourth quarter with only minutes separating them from a trip to the NBA Finals to face the Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers.
Horry says Pippen’s knowledge of Jackson’s triangle offense made it extremely difficult to get an edge over Portland in that series:
“And Scottie Pippen knew the triangle like the back of his hand, so we had to go up against that. That’s just like coaching for dummies you already know I’m going to run because you’ve been there, you knew everything we were running and Phil doesn’t change and Scottie knows that. So we just had to play through and avoid him.”
Pippen won six titles while playing in the triangle offense for Jackson alongside Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls. The Hall of Famer was the undisputed leader the scrappy Blazers and almost led them to the promiseland in 2000, but Kobe and Shaq turned out to be too much to handle in Game 7 leading the team from 15 points down to win the game and the series.
Ultimately, the Lakers went on to dominate the Pacers in the NBA Finals that year winning the first title in the Kobe-Shaq era. Even though the Lakers made easy work for the Pacers, the Blazers took them to the limit and could’ve ended the team’s run to three consecutive titles before it even began.[divide]
Kobe On What Drives Him, The Two Moves That Make Him Successful And Advice To Nick Young