The first of the Los Angeles Lakers’ three straight NBA Championships from 2000-02 was their toughest. The Indiana Pacers pushed the Lakers in a tougher six-game series than many remember. Of course, in the end, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were simply too much for Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose and Co.
The following year saw the two teams go in different paths as the Lakers continued on their run, while the Pacers began to descend into mediocrity. Nonetheless, the two teams would meet early in the 2000-01 season for the first time since the Finals, and the result was more of the same.
Bryant and O’Neal once again dominated, but the Lakers also received a huge boost from an unlikely source to defeat the Pacers, 124-107.
Kobe led the team with 37 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Not to be outdone, Shaq finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and six blocks. But it was veteran Ron Harper who made the difference.
In the final season of his 15-year career, Harper showed he had plenty left in the tank, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals while knocking down four of his six shots from 3-point range.
The Lakers used the middle quarters to pull away from the Pacers, outscoring them by 16 points in the second and third. Indiana was led by Austin Croshere who had 18 points while Jermaine O’Neal had 17 and 11 rebounds off the bench. Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose each finished with 15 points.
This game is the perfect example of what made the Lakers so great during that time. Shaq and Kobe will always get the attention and accolades, but the role players came through as well.
On this night it was Harper, Horace Grant (13 rebounds), and Rick Fox (seven points, eight rebounds, six assists) stepping up.
But the likes of Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, and Brian Shaw would all play huge roles as well. It is why this Lakers dynasty is considered one of the greatest ever.
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