The Lakers won their first NBA championship under the direction of Phil Jackson in 2000. Although, it almost did not happen. In the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers needed seven games and a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter of Game 7 to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers en route to their championship victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers added Horace Grant to the roster to solidify the starting lineup and front-court presence alongside Shaq. Also arriving in Los Angeles was Isaiah “J.R.” Rider. The new pieces would prepare for a strong test as the team would begin their season against the same Blazers team they dramatically eliminated just four months ago.
The game took place on October 31, 2000.
The Lakers jumped out to a nine-point lead at halftime, and appeared to be in control. However, the Blazers came roaring back in the third, and tied the game heading into the final quarter. It was there that the Lakers blitzed Portland to easily take the rematch and quiet any doubters.
As was expected, the Blazers were led by Rasheed Wallace, who contributed with 27 points and seven rebounds. Newly acquired Blazers Dale Davis and Shawn Kemp were not of much help; contributing for a combined 10 points.
Meanwhile, Shaq exploded with a 36 point, 11 rebound effort; shooting 14-for-20 from the field. Kobe scored 14 points, while Rider contributed with 13.
The Lakers would split the season series with Portland before sweeping them in the first round of the playoffs. In fact, the Lakers would also sweep the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs to reach the NBA Finals. The Philadelphia 76ers took Game 1 of the Finals, awakening the sleeping giant that was the Lakers, who would in turn sweep the remainder of the series for the second championship in as many years.
7. 2010-11: The Beginning of a Farewell
The Lakers won five world championships under the guidance of Phil Jackson; increasing his count to 11 rings, an NBA record. Phil Jackson publicly made it known that the 2010-11 season would be his final season as a head coach, thus the mood began towards winning a twelfth title for the zen master; the team’s possible third championship in a row.
The Lakers added Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Theo Ratliff via free agency, with hopes of solidifying the club’s defensive presence. All seemed well leading to tip-off against the Houston Rockets on October 26, 2010.
The Rockets got off to a great start, leading by as much as 15 points that evening. However, Houston could not stop the gutsy Lakers, who were led by Shannon Brown’s three-point down pour. Brown scored 14 of his 16 points in a 6 1/2 minute span.
The final minute of the game saw the lead change hands four separate times when Steve Blake hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 18.8 seconds to go.
With just three seconds to go, the Rockets’ Luis Scola missed a difficult shot that led to a video review over who had possession of a loose ball. Moments later, it was determined that the Rockets would get the ball with 2.4 seconds to go. The ball was inboundeded to Aaron Brooks, who attempted a game-winning layup, only to have it blocked by Lamar Odom; solidifying the victory for the Lakers.
Leading the way for the Lakers was Pau Gasol with 29 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lakers began the season 8-0, and appeared to be in the driver’s seat towards that third consecutive championship. But in April, the wheels on the bus suddenly fell apart. The Lakers lost five of their last seven games, and were slotted to play the New Orleans Hornets in the playoffs.
After losing Game 1, the Lakers seemed to find that intensity that had many fans confident of a resurgence to their early-season form. They eliminated the Hornets in six games. But whatever confidence was had, was quickly diminished as the eventual NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers in four games; ending Jackson’s career in an unexpected fashion.
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