A reporter from Japan introduced herself to Robert Horry before Game 3 Sunday, her cameraman started rolling and she asked Horry what it was like to play an NBA Finals game on the road, with all the fans yelling and the pressure building.
No problem, Horry assured her.
"It's just a game," he said.
That's Horry's mentality. He could be in the Finals or back home in a gym in Alabama. He plays in such a relaxed state that you wonder if Phil Jackson has to send an assistant to wake him up before he sends Horry into the game.
On Sunday he seemed oblivious to all the noise and the and the situation that was THE FINALS and that the Lakers were CLINGING TO A ONE-POINT LEAD and SHAQUILLE O'NEAL HAD FOULED OUT.
He found himself alone in the left corner and hit a three-point basket with 47.1 seconds left to stretch the Laker lead from one to four points. Then 76er players fouled him twice in the final 21 seconds and Horry made all four free throws to seal the Lakers' 96-91 victory in Game 3.
"He's real laid back at the end of the game," Brian Shaw said. "Time after time, he makes the big play."
Especially in June. Horry seems to be at his best in the Finals, and he was at his best Sunday night. He scored 15 points in addition to four rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and one steal.
"It's not June, man," Horry said. "It's every night you see one of these games. People always say that about me, that in June you come out and that's the only time you play. I guess that's either a good thing or a bad thing."
Right now the Lakers consider it a good thing, because ultimately these are the only games that matter.
The net result is that Horry has three championship rings, and with the Lakers holding a 2-1 lead in this series he's only two victories away from another.
If you think back to the two most important Laker road games of the playoffs so far, Horry produced in both. With Horace Grant in foul trouble in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals in San Antonio, Horry made a three-pointer to break a tie, and played tough defense against Tim Duncan down the stretch.
He made plays all over the court in Game 3 of the Finals, which turned into a referendum on heart. With O'Neal starting the fourth quarter on the bench with four fouls and the 76ers cranking up their defense and pushing the Laker offense out near halfcourt, Horry scored the Lakers' first basket on a three-pointer after Horace Grant rebounded a Kobe Bryant miss. Then he drew an offensive foul on Philadelphia forward Tyrone Hill, who wrapped an arm around Horry and pushed him as he spun through the lane.
The Lakers went a minute and a half without a point until Horry drove and dunked on Dikembe Mutombo.
Horry said he isn't afraid of any situation because when he was with the Houston Rockets, he faced seven elimination games in the course of winning consecutive championships. So the sight of Mutombo lurking beneath the rim isn't going to scare him away.
It was the 1995 NBA Finals when Horry first established himself as a prime-time player by averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Houston Rockets swept the Orlando Magic.
But he has been traded twice since then, and he picked up the reputation for only getting it done in June.
Kobe Bryant, seated next to Horry at the podium, kept laughing at the subject.
"I don't know why you're surprised," Bryant said. "Robert does this all the time. He does. He's sneaky about it. It's not once in a while, it's consistent. He did it last year in the Finals, done it for us all regular season long."
Well, yes and no.
In the Lakers' pivotal victory in Game 4 of last year's Finals, Horry scored 17 points and had six assists. He scored four points in overtime and switched out on Reggie Miller to alter Miller's last-second shot that could have won it for the Indiana Pacers.
But throughout this season? Even Horry has said he fades at times.
"During the regular season you might cruise a little bit," Horry said. "It's 82 games. Playoffs, you know you've got to go hard because if you don't win, you go home."
When the Lakers began their winning streak in April he scored 12 points in the first game against Utah, four points two nights later in Chicago, then he didn't score in the next three games.
Now it's June and it should be surprising when Horry upstages O'Neal and Bryant.
"Tonight was about Robert Horry," Rick Fox said. "He essentially won the game for us."
He made the subtle contributions, such as screening Mutombo to free O'Neal for a layup in the lane.
Horry and Bryant came over to block Iverson's path to the basket in the final 12 seconds, when the 76ers trailed by three and were going for a quick score. Then he grabbed the rebound of the follow-up shot.
And he made the big shot that people on both sides talked about, that three-pointer from the corner.
After it went in, he turned to some fans and pumped a fist at them.
"I got tired of them always talking," Horry said.
Quiet. It's the NBA Finals. It's time for Robert Horry to bring the noise.
J.A. Adande can be reached at email@example.com
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Horry to the Rescue
Robert Horry's shooting and scoring statistics in the final 2:21 of Game 3--after Shaquille O'Neal fouled out--and four other categories:
Fgm- 3ptm- Ftm-
Fga Pct. 3pta Pct. Fta Pct. Pts Final 2:21 1-1 1.000 1-1 1.000 4-4 1.000 7 4th Quarter of Game 3 3-3 1.000 2-2 1.000 4-4 1.000 12 Game 3 Totals 4-5 .800 3-3 1.000 4-4 1.000 15 First 2 Games/A Final 5-11 .454 1-4 .250 0-0 .000 11 First 13 Playoff Game 23-73 .315 10-38 .263 7-16 .438 4.8*