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Lakers rally for OT win

By Associated Press
Published June 9, 2004

LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left, sending the Lakers into overtime at 89-89 and then to a 99-91 victory over the Pistons in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.

The Lakers rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 36 seconds, desperately staving off a second straight shocking upset at home. After three tight quarters, the Pistons built a small lead in the fourth and seemed headed for victory when Ben Wallace got a rebound dunk with 47 seconds left.

But Shaquille O'Neal completed a three-point play with 35.9 seconds left. After the Pistons ran down the shot clock but couldn't score, the Lakers gave the ball to Bryant - and the superstar guard didn't even consider passing.

Bryant dribbled down the clock against the defense of Richard Hamilton, his childhood teammate - and then buried a 3-pointer over Hamilton from a step behind the line. Bryant, who had 29 points through regulation, pounded his chest repeatedly as he went to the bench.

The Pistons had one last chance, but the inbounds pass went through Rasheed Wallace's hands.

The Lakers were beaten 87-75 in Sunday's opening game in Los Angeles, and they didn't seem much sharper in Game 2. Chauncey Billups again dominated the Lakers, scoring 16 of his 27 regulation points in the third quarter.

The best-of-seven NBA Finals shift to Detroit for Games 3-5. A sixth and seventh game would be in Los Angeles, if necessary.

Bryant had 13 points and O'Neal 12 to help Los Angeles open a 44-36 halftime lead.

After losing the first game to the underdog Pistons, the Lakers played more tenacious defense in Game 2.

Hamilton led Detroit with 12 first-half points, but the Pistons shot just 35 percent from the floor to the Lakers' 41 percent.

Reserve Luke Walton gave Los Angeles a boost with seven points and five assists in 12 minutes.

After Hamilton's 3-pointer pulled the Pistons within 39-35 with 1:43 left in the first half, Karl Malone scored on a layup, Bryant dunked on a fastbreak and seconds later made the free throw after a technical was called on Hamilton.

Kareem Rush hit his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the right side with 8.2 seconds left in the first quarter, to give the Lakers an 18-16 lead after the first 12 minutes.

Walton made a layup with 49 seconds left in the period to cut Detroit's lead to 16-15, then fed Rush a cross-court pass for his 3-pointer.

OWNER ON THE FLY: Forgive Bill Davidson if he's a little worn out. He has been crisscrossing the country in pursuit of an incredible feat.

The Pistons owner arrived in Los Angeles about 4 a.m. after watching one of his other teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning, win the Stanley Cup on the other side of the country.

If the Pistons can win four games against the Lakers, Davidson will pull off an unprecedented season sweep of the NBA and NHL titles. Davidson, 81, also owns the Detroit Shock, the WNBA champions.

EXPANSION UNLIKELY: The NBA won't be expanding to Europe any time soon, commissioner David Stern indicated at his annual Finals news conference.

"With respect to international expansion, it's becoming clear to us that the infrastructure, meaning buildings, world-class arenas, are simply not there outside the United States yet," Stern said. "The fans in Europe have not been the beneficiaries of a building boom."

Previously, Stern has been cautiously optimistic that expansion could come to Europe as early as the end of this decade.

RATINGS JUMP: The ratings for Detroit's stunning Game 1 victory over the Lakers were up more than 50 percent from last year's opening game of the NBA Finals.

ABC's coverage of the Pistons' 87-75 win Sunday night got a 9.8 rating with a 17 share, up 53 percent from the 6.4 with an 11 that Game 1 between San Antonio and New Jersey got last year.

The rating also was better than any of the six games for last year's finals, won by San Antonio.

The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs, whether or not they are in use. Share is the percentage of homes with TVs in use. Each rating point represents about 1.08-million households.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]

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