L.A. Lakers 96, San Antonio 95
LOS ANGELES, March 31 (Ticker) -- Derek Fisher
's two free throws with 15 seconds left gave the Los Angeles Lakers a 96-95 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, who received poor play from Tim Duncan
down the stretch.
San Antonio built an 86-76 lead with 8:53 remaining on a free throw by Danny Ferry, but Robert Horry made two free throws for Los Angeles with 1:42 left to cut the deficit to 95-94.
The Spurs then went to Duncan, who was short on a jumper. Los Angeles had a chance for the lead, but Horry committed an offensive foul.
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Kobe Bryant started quickly with 13 points in the first quarter.
Duncan took a long jumper and was short again, and Fisher grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Malik Rose
. After Fisher made his free throws, the Spurs called a timeout and Duncan took a practice shot before going to the huddle.
San Antonio isolated Duncan on Shaquille O'Neal and Duncan backed him in before attempting a turnaround. O'Neal blocked the shot as Duncan and the Spurs clamored for a foul as time
"It doesn't matter," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "The call wasn't made, the game's over. Make your own conclusions."
"Well, that was some finish in the ballgame," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "We played good defense in the last quarter. A lot of disputed calls down the stretch, but we ended up coming away with this one."
"Down the stretch, I couldn't get anything to go," Duncan said. "Whether that was good defense or my inefficiency, or whatever that may be, it happened."
Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 31 points while O'Neal scored 15 of his 24 in the second half.
The Lakers captured the season series with the Spurs, 3-1, and have won seven of eight meetings dating to last season's
four-game sweep in the Western Conference Finals.
Bryant had an efficient performance, making 11-of-24 shots while not attempting a three-pointer. He made all nine free throws and added nine rebounds.
"Tonight was just a big test of our championship character," Bryant said. "It was just a matter of us showing our
Before Duncan's struggles, San Antonio appeared to be in good shape to defeat the defending NBA champions for the second straight time. Ferry's free throw capped a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter.
Bryant's two free throws pulled Los Angeles within 88-87 with 4:33 remaining. Steve Smith restored a three-point cushion before O'Neal sliced the deficit to one point with a pair of free throws.
Rose scored inside and Smith drained a three-pointer for a 95-89 lead with 2:38 to go. But Fisher knocked down a three-pointer and the Lakers went on to score the final seven points of the game.
Horry provided a lift with a season-high 23 points off the bench for Los Angeles, which trails Western Conference-leading
Sacramento by 1½ games. Horry made 8-of-14 shots, including three of the team's four three-pointers.
"He was really key to us in this game," Jackson said. "In the second half, striking some outside shots and bringing their
defense out allowed Shaq to get some room inside."
O'Neal came alive in the second half on both ends after a quiet first 24 minutes. He stifled David Robinson on the offensive end and eventually helped foul out Robinson and Rose.
Rookie Tony Parker scored 20 points and Smith added 11 for San
Antonio, which has lost three straight after a season-high 13-game winning streak. Robinson managed just seven points to go with his 11 rebounds.
"We've given up three fourth-quarter leads in the past three games; that's not a good way to go," Robinson said. "You have to finish them up and we haven't finished these three up."
The Lakers extended their home winning streak to 11 games.