With Anthony Davis creating his first legendary Lakers moment with a buzzer-beating game-winning three in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, it begs the question, where does this shot rank in terms of great Lakers buzzer-beating game-winners?
In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the formidable Denver Nuggets, Anthony Davis joined Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, and Metta World Peace in Laker players that have hit Playoff buzzer-beating game-winners. Let’s take a look at what each one meant to the franchise and find a suitable place within this small club for our new inductee.
Elgin Baylor‘s only buzzer-beating game-winner came on March 25th, 1964 in game 3 of the Western Division Semifinals against the St. Louis Hawks. Baylor would have 23 points on the night as he scored the final bucket in a game that was neck and neck throughout, finishing 107-105 in LA’s favour. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Baylor’s heroics didn’t mean a whole lot as they went on to lose the series 3-2.
When we look at Jerry West‘s clutch moments for the Lakers most remember his 60-foot heave in Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks, that sent the game into overtime. But in terms of playoff game-winning buzzer-beaters, West has two to his name. His first came in Game 3 of the 1962 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, intercepting a Celtics inbounds pass and racing up the floor for the layup, winning the game 117-115. His second came a year later in Game 2 of the NBA Western Division Finals against the Hawks, as he pulled up from 15 feet winning the game 101-99. Unfortunately for West, both of these occasions would end in Finals losses, both at the hands of the Celtics.
Big Shot Bob has had his fair share of humongous playoff moments. His Laker moment would come in Game 3 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers were down 2 with the ball with 11.8 seconds left on the game clock. The Lakers would iso Bryant as he attacks the rim and misses. Shaquille O’Neal gets the rebound and puts it back up, he misses. Vlade Divac then bats the ball out towards the top of the three-point line, where Horry is waiting in a perfect storybook way. Horry catches and fires the 3 in one smooth motion, hitting the shot with ease as if he was still shooting around in a gym Southern Alabama. The importance of this shot can not be understated, if Horry doesn’t connect, the Kings go 3-1 up in the series and have the Lakers pinned against a wall. Instead, the Lakers beat the Kings in 7 and sweep the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 Finals.
Fisher is one of the Lakers most important role players of the last 5 title runs, in 2004 he proved this once again as he hit one of the most impressive buzzer beaters in NBA history. The Lakers are playing the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals as the series is 2-2. Tim Duncan had just made a fadeaway 18 footer to put the Spurs up 73-72 with 0.4 seconds left on the game clock. Gary Payton will inbound as O’Neal rolls round to the back of the crowd towards the rim, a potential lob threat. Bryant scrambles out towards Payton to receive the short pass. O’Neal is tied up at the rim, and Bryant is doubled. Fisher breaks towards Payton and the pass comes, in one motion Fisher catches the ball, plants both feet and jumps into the air, swinging his body towards the basket. He chucks a heave toward the rim, over both outstretched arms of Ginobli. It connects as the buzzer sounds, sending the Lakers into orbit. Unfortunately for LA, in the grand scheme of things this shot wouldn’t mean to much, as they would win the series in 6 and would go onto making the Finals, but 2004 would finish in disappointment for the purple and gold.
One of the greatest Lakers of all-time, Bryant had 8 buzzer-beating game-winners in the purple and gold, but only one came in The Playoffs. This would come on April 30th, 2006 as LA played the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the First Round. LA are down by 1 in overtime as Walton wins a jump ball and Bryant controls it with 6 seconds left on the game clock. He drives the ball at the heart of the scrambled Phoenix Suns defence. Bryant gets to the right elbow and rises as Raja Bell and Boris Diaw contest. “Final seconds, Bryant for the win! BANG!”. This glory would be short-lived for the Lakers as they had just taken a 3-1 series lead, but would completely capitulate and lose in 7. A huge shot in the legacy of Kobe Bryant, but one that fades into obscurity in terms of Laker history.
The final name on this list seems almost out of place, Metta World Peace etched his name into Laker folklore on May 27th, 2010 against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The game was tied as LA had the inbound with 3.5 seconds left on the game clock. Bryant collects the inbound and fires up a contested 3 pointer for the win, but it comes up short. Non-other then World Peace comes darting into the paint to catch the airball. In one motion he controls and puts it back up, the ball pings off the window and rattles around the rim as it drops through. World Peace turns to Bryant and embraces him as the Staples Center explodes. In terms of importance, this shot was immense. With this shot going in the Lakers take a series lead at 3-2, finish the Suns in 6 and go onto win the NBA Finals in 7. If this shot doesn’t go in the game goes to overtime, the Lakers possibly lose and the Suns take a 3-2 lead as they go home for game 6.
So, now onto Anthony Davis. Looking at these other game-winners it is clear to see the two that hold major significance, Robert Horry and Metta World Peace. These are the two that lead to not only series wins, but later Finals victories. Anthony Davis‘ shot holds that kind of potential, the potential to go down as the greatest buzzer-beating game-winner in Laker history. The reason being the fact the Lakers are now 2-0 up in the Conference Finals as opposed to being 1-1. If they go on to win a championship this season, following a ten-year championship drought, depending on how this series goes, this Davis shot could go down in Laker history as the most important of all.
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