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Horry Story lives on?

GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Robert Horry’s latest postseason magic trick created the sort of time-stopping, gut-wrenching sports moment that can linger in a losing team’s mind for weeks.

The Sacramento Kings have less than 48 hours to put it behind them — to make sure that Game 4 of the Western Conference finals was a bump in the road, and not a complete change in course.

“All we need to know is that Game 5 is Tuesday night at Arco Arena, and this series is a long way from being over,” Kings guard Doug Christie said. “We shouldn’t be thinking about anything else.”

It’s easier said than done. The Kings spent Monday bolstering their collective mental state, which was sorely tested by Horry’s unbelievable buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave Los Angeles a 100-99 victory Sunday in Game 4 and evened the best-of-seven series.

Sacramento led for nearly 47 minutes of the game, from the first three baskets until the moment Horry’s shot settled in the net. A victory would have put the two-time defending champions on the ropes, down 3-1 and facing two games at Arco, the NBA’s toughest road arena.

Coach Rick Adelman silently watched the Kings’ faces on their plane ride home to Northern California, looking for signs of denial or depression. He saw neither.

“This team never looked back,” Adelman said. “Our team is in a very good frame of mind right now. They’re very focused on what’s coming next. They will bounce back.”

The Kings had wide-ranging reactions immediately after the game. Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Hedo Turkoglu repeatedly cited the incredible stroke of luck that sent Divac’s blind tip of a loose ball rolling straight to Horry, who hit his open shot. Bobby Jackson became indignant, saying the Lakers were scared of his team.

“It was two great teams playing, and you’re going to have some drama,” said Webber, a Detroit native. “I asked my brother, ‘I wonder if anyone is crying right now in Sacramento?’ It was like when I saw Isiah (Thomas) throw the ball away against the Celtics and the Pistons lost a game. I cried about that one.”

The Lakers’ hearts were pounding all the way to the final shot, but the result was an affirmation of the collective sense of destiny that follows any team with two championships.

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal both claimed they had no doubt Horry’s shot would fall.

“It was a blessed day for us,” O’Neal said. “Thank God for Robert. Thank God his father met his mother, too.”

Los Angeles practiced late Monday in El Segundo before flying to Sacramento — where nobody plans to order room service from the hotel that allegedly served a tainted bacon cheeseburger to Bryant last week.

“I’ve got some enchiladas packed already,” Bryant said with a grin.

Like the Kings, the Lakers look forward to being back on the road, where they have won 12 of their last 13 playoff games. Los Angeles has beaten Sacramento in six of its last eight games at Arco, though Sacramento took Game 2 of the series 96-90.

Destiny aside, Horry probably wouldn’t have got the chance to win Game 4 without a key strategic adjustment by the Lakers.

Down 24 points in the second quarter, Lakers coach Phil Jackson finally turned Bryant loose on Sacramento point guard Mike Bibby, whose relentless penetration and deadly outside shooting were making the Kings’ phenomenal offensive play possible.

Los Angeles outscored Sacramento 49-34 in the second half as Bryant, the Lakers’ best individual defender, made life miserable for Bibby — by any means necessary.

“I’ve petitioned the league to outlaw the bump-and-run,” Adelman said. “I’m a little concerned about my 150-pound point guard. They put a bigger guy on him, and (the officials) allowed him to do what he wanted.

“We knew they would do this eventually. It’s a good move, because Kobe is a great defender. You can’t attack him with a dribbler, because those type of defenders bother a dribbler. He has long arms, and he’s all over you.”

Adelman also cautioned Bibby against forcing too many plays with Bryant on him. He encouraged Bibby to allow Jackson and even Turkoglu to bring the ball up on offense.

Bryant shut down Bibby, but the strategy might not have worked if Jackson and Christie had hit the open shots created by Bibby’s struggles. Instead, Christie and Jackson went 5-for-19 from the field for the game, combining to score just five points in the second half.

“(Bryant’s defense) caught us off-guard, but we have a couple of things ready for them,” Webber said. “I think they came at us with everything they could last game, but we’ll be ready to go again.”


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