Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry name the ‘toughest team’ three-peat Lakers faced
Behind Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Robert Horry, the Los Angeles Lakers won three straight titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 under the guidance of Hall of Fame tactician Phil Jackson.
To win that first ring in 2000 over the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers first had to get past the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals. That series went an epic seven games, with Los Angeles ultimately winning Game 7 at home by a final score of 89-84.
In an interview with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, both O’Neal and Horry said that the 2000 Blazers team is the toughest club the Lakers faced during their three-peat run:
“It’s probably the best team I’ve ever faced playing basketball, period,” says Robert Horry, who won seven championships in his 16-year career, including three with the Lakers.
“They were the toughest team,” Shaq says, “and they were the only team that wasn’t scared of us.”
The 2000 Blazers were led by Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, who was nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career. Portland won 59 games during the 1999-00 regular season under head coach Mike Dunleavy.
Ultimately, Kobe and Shaq were too much for the Blazers to handle in the 2000 WCF. O’Neal averaged 25.9 points and 12.4 rebounds for the Lakers, while Bryant put up 20.4 points, 4.9 boards and 5.9 assists in the seven-game series.
The Lakers defeated the Pacers in six games in the NBA Finals to cap off their magical campaign. Shaq was an absolute monster against the Pacers. The Diesel averaged 38.0 points and 16.7 rebounds en route to winning his first Finals MVP Award with the Lakers.