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Why the 2002 Sacramento Kings Should Have Beaten the Los Angeles Lakers

Updated on April 20, 2022
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Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

The Sacramento Kings of 2001 and 2002 Were the Team Best Equipped to Beat the Defending Champion Lakers

Looking back through the history of the National Basketball Association, there is one team in my mind that should have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2002 playoffs and that team is the Sacramento Kings. The Kings that year had the best record in the league with 61 wins and 21 losses. The Los Angeles Lakers were very good also having won 58 games that season and they were looking to continue their march to a third straight NBA title. But in this article, we attempt to make the point as to why these Sacramento Kings were not the Sacramento teams of the past and this team was built to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers but they did not do so.

Rick Adelman Was the X Factor in the Kings Success That Season

Besides the fact that these Kings had the league’s best record that season, the coaching skill of Rick Adelman had enabled this team to succeed during the regular season even when they were missing certain players.

This Series Was a Chance for Rick Adelman to Somehow Make Up for His Team's Previous Losses in the 1990's

Adelman of course was the coach of the Portland Trailblazers ten years prior to this meeting in the playoffs when he had lost to Phil Jackson’s Chicago Bulls team in 6 games. What were the reasons why the 2002 Sacramento Kings should have beaten these L.A. Lakers even though the Lakers had their two star players Shaquille O’ Neal and Kobe Bryant?

The First Major Reason That the Sacramento Kings Should Have Won

The play of guard Mike Bibby- Guard Mike Bibby gave the Lakers all sorts of problems because of his quickness off the dribble and being able to be such a skilled player on the court. The Lakers had a very tough time keeping up with him.

The Other 4 Major Reasons Why the 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings Should Have Won Against the Lakers

  • Rick Adelman's coaching skils-The coaching skill of Rick Adelman deserves much credit as he was responsible for bringing the Sacramento Kings to national prominence in professional basketball.
  • The play of the Kings other players such as Hedo Turkoglu, Doug Christie, and especially Chris Webber especially should have been the reason that the Kings should have won this series. After the end of the first quarter the Kings were red hot, shooting a blistering 71% from the field while the Lakers shot very poorly even when they had wide open shots.
  • The Kings should have put the game out of reach for the Lakers when they built up a 48-24 lead with 9.5 minutes left in the second quarter and did not do so and this was the biggest reason the Lakers even had a chance to win the series. After a convincing Game three win by Sacramento, they should have won Game 4 and they could have finished the series in just 5 games because they were heading back home anyway. People can argue such things as the referees rigged the series for the Lakers and whatever else, but the fact remains that the Sacramento Kings had a golden opportunity to put these Lakers away and they did not do so.
  • These Los Angeles Lakers were not the 1987 Lakers and this point is significant. The 2001-2002 Los Angeles Lakers did have the dominant strength of center Shaq and the offensive minded young guard Kobe Bryant that was becoming the best young player in the game at that time however, these Lakers did not finish with 65 wins in 2002 that the 1987 team did. This team did not have a brilliant point guard such as Earvin “Magic” Johnson or the brilliant shooting guard Byron Scott. Derek Fisher was a point guard that would hustle for loose balls and get important rebounds but he did not have the skills or the court vision that Magic Johnson did. The bench of the 2001-2002 Lakers cannot match that of the 1986-1987 team. Also, as good of a coach that Phil Jackson is considered to be, he came to teams that were already built to win. Pat Riley trails Phil Jackson in terms of championships but he might have been the better coach.

Image of a Basketball


ESPN Givees a Summary of Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals

Memorable Quotes from Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals

“They have 48 points with nine and half minutes to go in the second quarter!”

“Sacramento needed defense on Kobe and one rebound they got neither!”

Bill Walton, commentator who also played for the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics championship team

"Horry for the the win, yes!!!"

Marv Albert's famous call of the game winning three pointer by Los Angeles Lakers forward Robert Horry.

An Additional Reason Why the 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings Should Have Won This Series

The most interesting aspect of this Western Conference Finals series was the huge game winning three pointer by forward Robert Horry who basically got a gift from Vlade Divac when Divac tapped the ball out to the top of the key after a missed layup attempt by center Shaquille O’Neal. Sometimes I like to think of this moment as fate that the Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to win this game and the series but did this event happen because of fate? For the types that are the die-hard Laker fans they will definitely say that the Los Angeles Lakers were destined to win the series against the Kings but I beg to differ on this issue. The Sacramento Kings were in complete control for much of the first half of that game and could have very easily scored over 75 points in that half but with Kobe Bryant slowly picking up his offensive game, the Lakers slowly chipped away at what looked to be an impossible comeback for these two-time defending champions. Vlade Divac should have tapped the ball out of bounds or he should have at least tried to grab the ball and hold on to it and the Lakers would have more than likely fouled him. Some will say that Vlade should have tapped the ball out to the top of the key but Vlade said during that press conference after the game that this shot was a lucky shot. That shot was not a lucky shot as even his own teammate Chris Webber said that it was not a lucky shot. Robert Horry would not have even been in the position to give th Los Angeles Lakers a chance to win this game, let alone the series had the Sacramento Kings held on and won this game even without the services of Predrag “Peja” Stojakovic. This game and the series was the Sacramento Kings’ series to lose and they lost it. As Bill Walton said after the game winner, the Kings needed to play defense on Kobe Bryant and get one more rebound but they got neither. This series loss for the Sacramento Kings should go down in sports history as one of the biggest series losses in the history of any sport.

© 2019 Ara Vahanian


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