PORTLAND, Ore., April 29 (UPI) -- Robert Horry, a veteran of tense, close playoff games, hit a critical three-point jumper in the final seconds Sunday afternoon to help give Los Angeles a dramatic 92-91 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, completing a first-round sweep of the NBA quarterfinal series between the two teams.
Horry also made a key defensive play in the closing seconds, stealing an in-bounds pass. On both plays, another long-term veteran of NBA playoff wars, Portland swingman Scottie Pippen, was victimized.
In the final 10 seconds, Pippen missed a free throw, blew a defensive assignment and threw away an inbounds pass.
After Kobe Bryant's three-pointer pulled Los Angeles to within a point, Pippen was fouled with 10.8 seconds remaining. He made his first free throw but missed the second, giving the Lakers a chance to tie or take the lead.
"Scottie missed a free throw and allowed us to take the game," Horry said.
From above the three-point circle, Bryant dribbled right against Ruben Patterson. Pippen jumped in front of Bryant, trying to draw a charge but leaving Horry open in the corner. Bryant pulled up and dished to Horry, whose three-pointer gave the Lakers a 92-91 lead with 2.1 seconds left.
"I didn't get out to him and it cost us the ballgame, pretty much."
"I was surprised that Pippen bit that hard and allowed me to get the rock," Horry said.
"It's cash. He's done it so many times," Bryant said.
On the next possession, Pippen tried to inbound to Wallace, but his pass was overthrown and intercepted by Horry, who was fouled with less than a second to go. He missed both free throws, but the Blazers did not get another shot.
"The game was not won or lost on that last play," said Portland Coach Maurice Cheeks. "We had Steve (Kerr) popping out and Rasheed in the post, but we just couldn't get them the ball."
A follow dunk by Rasheed Wallace gave the Blazers an 89-84 lead with 39 seconds left. Rick Fox answered with a layup and Wallace made 1-of-2 from the line with 17 seconds to go.
Bryant scored 25 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 21, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, who have won 19 of their last 20 playoff games, including seven in a row.
Wallace had 20 points and 12 boards and Bonzi Wells scored 19 points for the Blazers, who have lost seven consecutive playoff games, all to the Lakers.
Save his late lapses, Pippen had a solid all-around game with 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but none of that helped Portland down the stretch.
The third-seeded Lakers eliminated the Trail Blazers for the third straight year, the last two being first-round sweeps. They now await the winner of the series between San Antonio and Seattle as they pursue a third consecutive championship.
"I'm never happy to lose," said Pippen. "Losing and understanding why you lost makes a difference. We made some mistakes in today's game that cost us the ballgame. We've got to find a way to get through this team."