The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2001-02 season at the peak of their dominance. Upon capturing consecutive NBA championships, Phil Jackson’s team had the utmost confidence going against their competitors.
While Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal received a bulk of the credit, the supporting cast implemented alongside the two stars were the ideal complements. Derek Fisher and Lindsey Hunter provided pesky defense and were able to space the floor, while Rick Fox and Devean George provide grit and consistent smarts while on the court.
With the triangle offense running to near perfection, the Lakers were able to execute their play from the inside out, which would set the theme for their March 17 game against the Dallas Mavericks.
As the reigning champions, each franchise wanted the opportunity to dethrone the Lakers, meaning they often drew their opponents’ best shot on a nightly basis.
The Lakers had a starting lineup of Hunter, Bryant, Fox, O’Neal, and Robert Horry for the game with the Mavericks.
On the other hand, Steve Nash, Adrian Griffin, Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and Raef LaFrentz formed the Mavericks starting five. The Mavericks, with their 46-19 record, had won nine of their last 11 entering the game.
Referred to by many as ‘Big Shot Bob,’ Horry earned his spot in the lineup, even with Samaki Walker’s return to the team. Horry’s clutch shooting and experience on the court was an impact that couldn’t be measured, providing spacing and confidence should they double team O’Neal down low.
While both teams were amongst the elite in the Western Conference, the rivalry between them was rather one-sided. Entering the contest, the Lakers had won 40 of the last 43 matchups between the two franchises.
The meeting at Staples Center served as a potential playoff preview. Both teams started out strong, as the Mavericks emerged with a one-point lead after the first.
Dallas outscored the Lakers by one point in the next quarter, setting the stage for a competitive second half. Los Angeles rebounded in the third quarter, outscoring the Mavericks by five. With a three-point lead, the Lakers would have to outlast multiple runs from Dallas over the final 12 minutes.
Both teams put together strong stretches of basketball in the fourth, with Horry proving to be the difference. The scoring turned up as the game approached its end, including a sequence where both teams totaled six consecutive 3-pointers.
The final of the six came from Horry, putting his team up for good. From there, the Lakers would get two stops. The Lakers emerged with a 105-103 victory over the Mavericks, improving their record to 47-18.
O’Neal led the way with 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Horry also contributed an all-around effort, with 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks. His late 3-pointers were key and further demonstrated the reputation he received as one of the most clutch players in NBA history.