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Thursday, May 13, 2004
Updated: May 14, 3:36 PM ET
Trying to predict Game 6 would be nutty

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- It wasn't a Friday. Not this time, and not last time.

It was simply a freaky Thirteenth of May.

Another one.

This one even freakier than the last.

Derek Fisher
Fisher's (2) miracle basket in a Lakers' playoff victory last spring helped him land a lucrative deal with the Warriors last summer.
Exactly a year to the day that the rim on the north side of the SBC Center spit out a dead-on Robert Horry special, this building that looks like a metallic barn was the stage for a dramatic, historic see-saw finish that made Horry's story seem ho-hum ... an ending that somehow put Big Shot Rob on the losing side again.

How see-saw was it?

In the final 11.9 seconds, the lead changed three times.

In the final four-tenths of a second, it only changed twice.

So ...

If you clicked here for a thorough dissection and replay of an ending none of the participants could really explain, hang in there. We're going to try.

If you clicked here expecting forecasts for what happens next in this second-round epic, you're nuts.

No one has a clue. Nobody.

After Kobe Bryant sinks a jumper from the wing with just under 12 seconds left ... and then Tim Duncan answers with a go-ahead rainbow prayer over Shaquille O'Neal that nearly pops the disbelieving eyes out of Duncan's head ... and then Derek Fisher wins it with a turn-and-heave that swishes through with zeros on the clock ... good luck.

All we can tell you for sure is that San Antonio's official protest of the final sequence, lodged with the league about an hour after Fisher's miracle, has no chance of forcing a Game 5 redo.

Beyond that, sorry.

You wouldn't and couldn't be surprised if this game means a fourth championship in five years for the Lakers. That's how big a victory it was.

Yet can you say with certainty that the Spurs can't pull themselves out of therapy Saturday night at Staples Center and halt the three-game losing streak that followed their 17-game win streak?

Do you remember Game 6 last May, when Duncan dominated O'Neal and the Spurs KO'd the Lakers in L.A. after nearly blowing a 25-point lead in Game 5?

Would you really be surprised if these Lakers, who admittedly only play their best when they're desperate, relax a tad in this Game 6, thinking they've got the series now?

How could you be floored by anything after the miracles Duncan and Fisher traded here?

Fisher, on Duncan's miracle: "It didn't even seem like he could see the basket over Shaquille."

Duncan, on Fisher's reply: "Unfortunate. Incredible. There's not much else I can say about it."

Duncan, though, went on to insist that recovering from what Gregg Popovich termed "the cruelest defeat" in his coaching life would be on the simple side.

Yup. Duncan really made that claim, saying, "It's easy. I think the slogan is, you Win Or Go Home. We want to win and come home (for Game 7)."

It won't be easy, of course, but the bravado was eerily reminiscent of the way Bryant tried to downplay the crushing effect of Horry's in-and-out triple here last May 13. "Are you kidding me?" Bryant said minutes after the miss. "I'm over this game already."

Memories of last year's buzzer scene inevitably surfaced before Thursday's tip. Phil Jackson was asked if he planned to mention it to his players, especially since Horry is a Spur now, on the premise that recollections of that heartbreak might spur the retooled Lakers into a vengeful frenzy.

Nope.

"It was destiny," Jackson said, claiming that he is at peace with that outcome.

Looking great at times, like we can't be beat, and looking terrible at times, like we aren't concerned with how we're playing.
Derek Fisher on the Lakers' season
This?

About 10 times wilder.

You had Fisher sprinting off the court in triumph and then revealing afterward that he did so because he didn't want to give the referees even a hint of cause to suspect he got the shot off late ... but admitting that he also stopped at the nearest TV in the bowels of the arena to watch the refs review the instant replay.

"I actually prayed real quick," Fisher said of his first act after leaving the scene.

While Fisher was out of sight, you also had a large congregation of Lakers and Spurs peering over the shoulders of the three refs as they watched the video at the scorer's table. The smile on Bryant's face, as referee Dan Crawford confirmed the basket was good, was as broad as any smile in public from Kobe since, oh, July.

You had numerous Spurs saying they were convinced that the clock didn't start as soon as Fisher caught the ball ... although it sure looked to me like his shot indeed should have counted.

You had Jackson calling it "probably the most unpredictable" finish he has ever witnessed, and Manu Ginobili calling it "the worst feeling in the world" to lose on a buzzer-beater after they had all thought Duncan's shot won it.

You had Bruce Bowen, hearing reporters pepper other Spurs with "Is It Over?" questions, shouting out from the showers in San Antonio's locker room: "This is something left in this team."

You had Duncan parked outside the interview room, forced to wait for Fisher to finish describing his heroics and hearing every word of his glee.

You had Fisher admitting that the game was a microcosm of the Lakers' whole season. "Looking great at times, like we can't be beat," he said, "and looking terrible at times, like we aren't concerned with how we're playing."

And you had Horry, so distraught to be defeated again, turning and sneering at his questioner when he was asked to describe his emotions on this Thirteenth of May -- after what happened last May 13th.

Horry didn't say a word. He finished getting dressed, then stalked to the parking lot on his way home.

"Sometimes life's tough," Popovich said.

Said Duncan: "I try to play the game (by) never getting too high and never getting too low. This was probably a prime example of getting a little bit too high and having a major letdown."

It was also a prime example of what you should expect next May 13, particularly if the Lakers and Spurs wind up playing another Game 5 that night.

Oh, yeah. Something else to note: In 2005, May 13th does fall on a Friday. Fittingly.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.