SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Shaq and Kobe had the big numbers -- as might be expected considering they're perhaps the NBA's two best players.
But it's quite possible the Los Angeles Lakers would be headed home for the summer had the supporting cast not come through in the second half and overtime in Sunday night's riveting Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
And because they did, the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers are four wins shy of a three-peat.
''Without the supporting cast, we can't win,'' reserve forward Samaki Walker said.
''Everyone had to contribute,'' Rick Fox said with a tired smile.
After Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant scored all but 16 of the team's first 56 points, their teammates -- mainly Fox, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher -- put forth a terrific effort as the Lakers outlasted Sacramento 112-106 by scoring the last eight points.
All five Lakers starters would finish with 13 or more points.
''We just play,'' said Horry, who had eight of his 16 points and three of his 12 rebounds in the fourth quarter. ''When we get shots, we take them. Sometimes, you don't get shots. When we don't we don't try to force them.''
O'Neal and Bryant combined for 72 points and their teammates 34 in Game 6 -- a 106-102 Los Angeles victory.
It was 65 and 47 in Game 7.
The win was the first ever for the Lakers on the road in a Game 7 of a series after five losses and their 13th overall in 20 seventh games.
Horry expressed the feeling that the Kings tightened up in the overtime.
And what about him?
''I don't tense up because it's just a game,'' he said with a smile.
Now, after a brief rest, the Lakers will open the NBA Finals against Eastern Conference champion New Jersey on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
They will be playing in the NBA Finals for the 21st time after their 26th appearance in the conference finals.
''I watched them one game, they looked so damn good,'' Horry said of the Nets in a victory over Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.
Fox had 13 points, a career playoff high 14 rebounds and seven
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assists and Fisher, who struggled previously in this series, also scored 13 points capped by four free throws without a miss in the overtime period.
O'Neal led the way with 35 points and 13 rebounds and Bryant added 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
''This is a great feeling because we had to fight back,'' said Bryant, wearing a Joe Montana jersey. ''They were playing better basketball than we were, we were able to fight back and win the series.''
The Lakers, who trailed 3-2 before winning the last two games of the series, fell behind by nine points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter Sunday and it appeared they might be in trouble.
But that's when the supporting cast kicked in.
Fisher hit a 3-pointer, Fox made two baskets and Horry and Slava Medvedenko had one each before the end of the period, which ended with the Kings on top 74-73.
It continued in the fourth as Horry and Fox made the first two Los Angeles baskets and Horry added a pair of 3-pointers -- the last with 1:30 to play to give the Lakers a 96-94 lead.
Sacramento's Mike Bibby would eventually make two free throws with 8.2 seconds left to tie the game at 100 and force overtime.
O'Neal had six points, Fisher four and Bryant two in the overtime.
''I just continued to believe in myself,'' Fisher said. ''This basketball team has accepted every challenge. Today was no different. It forced us to reach to deeper depths than we ever have before.''
Lakers coach Phil Jackson has won an NBA-record 23 straight playoff series dating to 1995.
''They had great energy, we really had to squeeze everything out of this ballclub to win it,'' he said of his team. ''We were really confident that we could win this game.
''They (the Kings) really played hard, they pushed us to the limit.''
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