2002 Western Conference Finals
Date: May 18-June 2, 2002
Teams and result: Los Angeles Lakers over Sacramento Kings in seven games.
Three of those seven losses came against an exciting, Chris Webber led, Sacramento squad in a series that is surrounded by controversy. Disgraced ref Tim Donaghy's main evidence that the best-of-7 was fixed was the fact that, in Game 6, L.A. shot 27 free throws in the 4th quarter to Sacramento's nine. We admit it's fairly compelling as it appeared every suspect freaking call in the final quarter went the Lakers way.
The NBA wanted a Game 7 and they got a Game 7 complete with 16 ties and 19 lead changes (at least it was entertaining). Sacramento fought hard against both the reigning champs and (apparently) the NBA establishment but in the end had to be kicking themselves for going 16-30 at the charity stripe and 2-20 from downtown. Making any of those shots would've prevented this from becoming the only Game 7 OT in Conference Finals history and would've given them a "shot" (no pun intended, no wait actually it is) at being the first time the Kings would have a shot at a title since they moved to Sacramento.
But let it not overshadow what a great series this (still) was. It featured three of the most dominant players (Webber, Shaq and Kobe) all mashed in a showdown that was the true championship. After all everyone knew the winner would be able to handle the Eastern Conference winning New Jersey Nets. It was also a series that helped establish how "clutch" Robert Horry is come playoff time. Sorry Sacramento fans, if you wanted to go to the Finals you should've lived in a bigger city.