The Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 2000s was one that featured the perfect team concept. With Shaquille O’Neal dominating the interior and Kobe Bryant wreaking havoc on the entire court, Phil Jackson chose the ideal role players to surround them in the triangle offense.
On April 4, 2003, the bench cast contributed heavily towards digging the Lakers out of a big hole. The 2002-03 season was all about adding on to the first three-peat since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers were amongst the favorites in the NBA, with the experience needed to tackle various scenarios. Entering the month of April, the Lakers were poised for a run at a fourth consecutive championship, using the contest against the Memphis Grizzlies as a tuneup for the playoffs.
The Grizzlies hosted the Lakers at the Pyramid Arena, with a packed crowd watching their team get out to an amazing start. By halftime, they held a 56-48 lead, with momentum completely in their favor.
The Grizzlies then reached their peak in the third quarter, putting together a run that had the Lakers stumped. The starters were rendered useless, while Memphis head coach Hubie Brown was putting constant pressure on the two Lakers stars.
Jackson benched starters Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, and Robert Horry in favor of Jannergo Pargo, Kareem Rush, and Mark Madsen. The bench players then faced some adversity after being inserted into the game, as the Grizzlies kept up their constant ball pressure courtesy of Jason Williams and Brevin Knight.
Both teams exchanged baskets until the end of the quarter, which ended on Knight stealing the ball from Pargo and nailing a buzzer-beater from 40 feet out. Memphis took an 89-66 lead into the fourth.
It was here where Pargo, Rush, and Madsen would step up in different ways to contribute towards the comeback effort. Madsen ignited an 8-2 run with a three-point play at the rim, followed by an offensive rebound and putback that came from pure effort.
Rush then pushed the pace in the open court, scoring from inside the paint and beyond the arc. He contributed eight points, two assists and three rebounds, including throwing down the hammer on an alley-oop pass from Pargo.
The point guard then got active in the scoring column with two of his own 3-pointers, both coming on the fast break. At the same time, he pestered the opposing guards with his persistent defense.
With the game in striking distance, Bryant and O’Neal were able to deliver the haymakers that would permanently overthrow the Grizzlies. Bryant nailed a couple of 3-pointers, while O’Neal’s three-point play and clutch free throws tied the game at 94.
Memphis was then the beneficiary of a fortunate call, which allowed Pau Gasol to knock down a free throw to give them the lead. However, the Grizzlies left 3.3 seconds on the clock for Bryant and the Lakers.
After missing Horry on a backdoor cut, Bryant settled himself, took a dribble to his right, and pulled up to nail the buzzer-beater in Shane Battier’s face. That shot sealed one of the historic comebacks in Lakers history, giving them the 96-95 victory.