Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
This slide could be called, “What if Game 6 of the 2001 Western Conference Finals hadn’t been demonstrably rigged?”
It could have also been named, “What if Robert Horry’s parents had just done the city of Sacramento a favor and never met?”
But no. Kings fans will always decry the horrid reffing in Game 6 until we are purple in the face.
And we only pretend that we can block out Horry’s Game 4 winner.
You know what we really block out? Game 7. That’s what the Sacramento faithful really repress, because it represents the true failing of the best team ever to wear the Kings uniform.
14 missed free throws. Two of 20 from three point territory. The absolute collapse in overtime.
Do you know how hard it was for me to look up that box score?
So that is why this slide is named what it is. Because the Kings couldn’t have controlled the refs in Game 6. And Game 4 was sealed as soon as Vlade Divac’s hand inadvertently tipped it towards Horry.
The real reason the Kings lost the series was the utter failure in the deciding game.
What if the Kings had not choked?
If Sacramento had, say, made 70 percent of their free throws (their seasonal average was 75 percent) and sank 21 of the 30 attempts instead of just 16?
Or what if they’d just made 30 percent of their three-pointers (season average sat at 36.7 percent) and sank six instead of two?
It wouldn’t have gone to overtime. The Kings would have won and moved on to the Finals.
They’d have faced a Nets team that the Lakers ended up sweeping. Could the Kings have beaten New Jersey as soundly as Los Angeles did?
Probably not—the Nets and Kings split the regular season series, with the Kings squeaking out a 98-97 win at home and the Nets clobbering for a 117-83 win in New Jersey.
But would they have won? I’d bet money that if the Kings had made just 70 percent of their free throws in Game 7 against the Lakers, Arco Arena would have a 2002 championship banner waiving from the rafters.