Lakers Show They Can Tough It Out


Well, look what we have here. An actual working aorta. Two functioning ventricles. How about a fully operating atrium, left and right? Yep, those too.

The Lakers have heart, lots of it, behind all that studied Southern California cool. It thumps and it pumps, and rattling inside their rib cage Sunday was a resolve that was about two sizes too big for the Philadelphia 76ers, who thought they had the market cornered on such things.

The Lakers came into a loud, echoing cavern masquerading as the First Union Center for Game 3 and pushed their chins out in defiance. Hollywood makes action films, too, doesn't it?

Make it Lakers 96-91, give them a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals and most of all, don't tell them that they're not tough guys. As 76er guard Allen Iverson likes to say, this is real life. Sunday was down, dirty and two-fisted. Sunday was real life.

'The game turned into a scrum match," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said.

This was a war, both teams wading through swamps, rifles held over heads, knives clenched in teeth. Well, OK, it was only a court, and all they had was a basketball. But the sheer fury with which both teams approached Game 3 was impressive.

In the middle of it all, Robert Horry showed up and put long-stemmed flowers into the 76ers' gun barrels. When Shaquille O'Neal fouled out with two minutes, 21 seconds left in the game, the end seemed close for the Lakers. But then Horry, a ghost from playoffs past, scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. The Lakers don't have heart, you say? Horry hit a three-point shot with 47 seconds left to make it 92-88. The Lakers are soft, you say? Horry hit four free throws down the stretch.

Heart? O'Neal, who couldn't find the rim with a metal detector from the free-throw line in the first two games, took a deep breath and came to an understanding with the basket. He made eight of nine free throws.

Soft? When O'Neal dived for a loose ball Sunday, it looked like a DC-10 coming in with its landing gear not functioning. Pretty boy Rick Fox dived for a loose ball. Kobe Bryant jumped into the second row for a roaming basketball.

This just in--the Lakers have spunk and spirit too.

'We play through anything," Bryant said.

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