PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The Philadelphia 76ers should have known better: Don't leave Robert Horry open when the game's on the line.
They did, and it cost them a possible victory.
Horry, who's made a career of hitting big shots in clutch situations, did it again Sunday night as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the 76ers 96-91 for a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Kevin Ollie's three-point play with 1:02 remaining trimmed the Lakers' lead to 89-88, and with Shaquille O'Neal and Derek Fisher having fouled out, the 76ers had reason to be encouraged, and their fans at the First Union Center were going nuts.
However, Kobe Bryant got the ball to Brian Shaw, who fired to an open Horry, who squared his feet and fired away.
Swish, three points, and the Lakers had a 92-88 lead with 47.1 seconds to play.
It was the biggest basket of the game and, as it turned out, gave the Lakers all the points they would need.
``Robert is the consummate pro,'' Shaw said. ``He's real laid back, and at the end of the game, time after time, he makes the big play.''
Actually, it hasn't been with regularity lately, as Horry averaged only 4.8 points in 13 previous playoff games and was 10-for-38 (26.3 percent) from 3-point range.
``You can't always go by the stats,'' Horry said.
The Sixers focused their defense on Bryant down the stretch.
``Without Shaq, I didn't want Kobe to beat us,'' Philadelphia's Eric Snow said. ``I'm not sure it was the right decision, but it was a decision that I made.''
It certainly didn't turn out to be the right decision, and Horry wasn't finished.
After Allen Iverson's three foul shots cut the Lakers' lead to 92-91, Horry made two free throws with 21.3 seconds to play, silencing the crowd much as he did with the 3-pointer.
And there was more _ Horry rebounded Iverson's missed shot, and made another pair of foul shots with 9.5 seconds left.
``He was very crucial for us to have on the floor,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Horry. ``Robert's a critical 3-point shot-maker. That's not unusual that he knocks them down in the clutch situation.''
Horry played a key role, especially with his outside shooting, when the Houston Rockets won championships in 1994 and 1995, and helped the Lakers' title run last June.
``Robert does this ALL the time,'' Bryant said. ``He does. He's sneaky about it. It's not once in a while, it's consistent. He did it last year in the finals, done it for us all regular season long, he's going to keep on doing it. That's Robert for you.''
O'Neal fouled out with 2:21 to play and the Lakers leading 86-84. Fisher picked up his sixth foul 26 seconds earlier.
So it was left to Horry, and he came through.
``It was just being patient, letting the game come to you, taking advantage of the situation,'' he explained.
The 30-year-old Horry scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, making all three shots he tried _ two from 3-point range _ and all four free-throw attempts.
Before that, he made one of two shots _ a 3-pointer.
``That's a rhythm shot for me, something we practice all the time,'' Horry said. ``I said, `Hey, I get my feet set, I'm shooting this.' They got a small lineup, I know other guys can go to the boards, get the rebound.
``I said, `Hey, release it. If it's good, it's good. If not, get back on D.'''
O'Neal complimented the play of his teammates and singled out Horry for special praise.
``Robert Horry played great, he hit some big shots, he made some big free throws,'' O'Neal said. ``He has done it throughout his whole career.''