SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 19 (Ticker) --
Even without Shaquille O'Neal
, the Los Angeles Lakers have the San Antonio Spurs' number.
scored 17 of his 28 points in the second half as the defending champions overcame O'Neal's absence to rout the Spurs, 98-81, in the first meeting between the teams since the Lakers' sweep in last season's Western Conference finals.
O'Neal served the finale of his three-game suspension for an ugly fight with Chicago's Brad Miller
last Saturday. But the Lakers did not miss the 7-2, 350-pound superstar, outscoring the Spurs 29-18 in the fourth quarter to break open a close game.
The Spurs closed to 83-77 on Steve Smith's
jumper with 5:44 remaining but did not get another basket until Antonio Daniels'
dunk in the final minute.
NBA.comTV highlights from Lakers-Spurs:
Kobe Bryant swoops in to contest a shot by David Robinson, who made just one of eight shots.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
Los Angeles went 2-1 without O'Neal, also beating Memphis and losing to Miami. They are 5-3 without him this season.
"We know that we're going to see them again and I'm sure they'll be ready to play," Bryant said. "We've been happy the way we've played without Shaq. The game with Miami, we were down 24 and fought our way back."
The Lakers put away the contest with an 11-0 spurt, opening a 94-77 lead on Mark Madsen's
hook with 1:29 to play. The only other points for the Spurs down the stretch were a pair of free throws by Daniels with 1:22 to go.
scored 21 points and Tim Duncan
added 20 and 15 rebounds for San Antonio, which made just 1-of-15 3-pointers. The Lakers were 7-of-21 from beyond the arc. In last year's sweep, San Antonio's perimeter play also was awful.
"The coaching staff prepares us really well for games," Bryant added. "I think we went out there and executed our game plan. I think we were able to take Tim out of his rhythm. Robert (Horry)
did a great job on him tonight."
The Lakers wore down the Spurs with one of their best all-around efforts of the season. All 10 players who saw time for Los Angeles scored at least five points. Stanislav Medvedenko
added 12 off the bench and Derek Fisher
"We had good bench help and good focus," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "A number of players contributed off the bench."
The Lakers shot 47 percent (41-of-88) from the field while holding the Spurs to 41.5 percent (34-of-82). San Antonio scored just 36 points over the final two quarters.
"A team without their superstar will play harder, just like with our team," Charles Smith said.
"We didn't play hard as a team for 48 minutes," Daniels said. "Some guys did at times, but as a team we weren't consistent throughout the game. There's no excuses for the loss. This is why they are a championship-caliber team right now."
The Spurs jumped to an early 12-3 lead but the Lakers closed to 24-22 after the first period. Los Angeles never relinquished the lead in the second half after building a 49-45 advantage at intermission.
The Lakers began to take control early in the third, opening a 62-51 advantage on Walker's jumper with 6:45 left.
Steve Smith's jumper with 1:27 left pulled San Antonio within 69-63 entering the final period. The Spurs had a chance to get closer, but Malik Rose
missed a 25-footer as the third quarter expired.
After Lindsey Hunter's
3-pointer gave the Lakers an 83-73 lead with 6:40 left, Terry Porter
and Steve Smith hit back-to-back jumpers to bring San Antonio within six.
But the Spurs went cold and fell to just 3-4 in their last seven home games. Overall, they are just 7-7 since a 10-game winning streak from December 1-21.
"We had a bad second half," Duncan said. "I take full responsibility for the second half. We started great, but we just let out the gas. I need to be more aggressive on my part."
Jackson posted his 696th victory, moving into a tie for 13th on the all-time list with the late Red Holzman, his coach and mentor when he played for the New York Knicks in the 1970s.