L.A. Lakers 86, San Antonio 80
LOS ANGELES, May 5 (Ticker) --
Bloodied and bruised, Shaquille O'Neal
and Kobe Bryant
showed the toughness of champions.
The leaders of the Los Angeles Lakers played through injuries
and rallied their team to a gritty 86-80 victory over the San
Antonio Spurs, who wasted a great chance to steal Game 1 of
their Western Conference semifinal series.
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O'Neal wore a pair of gold wristbands, with the right one
protecting four stitches he needed following what the Lakers
described as a "household incident" earlier Sunday.
Shaq played through pain while inflicting some of his own on Malik Rose and the ball.|
"I fell on some glass playing with the kids and I needed a
stitch when I came in (to the arena)," O'Neal said.
His problems were compounded early in the third quarter, when he
gashed his right index finger on the rim and missed nearly a
period, taking another three stitches -- and an important phone
"I was getting stitches and my finger was numb," O'Neal said.
"I thought I wasn't going to be able to come back out and the
phone rang and it was my father and he told me to get my (butt)
back out there.
"He made me come back out today. My finger was numb. I had to
touch a ball for a minute or so. It felt like I had four
fingers, but I guess he knew what I was thinking and he called
the phone right there. I don't know how he got the number."
As O'Neal returned in the fourth quarter, Bryant headed to the
locker room after banging his right knee on the previous
"As I tried to walk it off, the knee just kept on swelling,"
Bryant said. "So I had to go back into the training room, put
some ice on it, to see if I could get the swelling down and to
also see if I could bend it."
Bryant returned wearing a wrap around the knee with 4:36 to go
as O'Neal made two free throws, giving the Lakers the lead for
good at 73-71.
"I did not know what they were doing, whether they were
amputating his finger or what was going on in the locker room,"
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We just got him back on the
floor and Kobe ended up with a banged-up knee, so we tag-teamed
it for a little bit and were able to survive until they both got
After Derek Fisher made a 3-pointer to widen the margin to five
points, O'Neal and Bryant made all the big plays down the
stretch. San Antonio's Steve Smith drilled a 3-pointer, but
O'Neal answered with a baby hook for a 78-74 edge with 2 1/2
A struggling Tim Duncan and Malik Rose made jumpers around a
free throw by O'Neal, cutting the deficit to one point with 1:13
to play. Just 10 seconds later, O'Neal hammered home a lob
from Robert Horry.
The Spurs had a chance to tie, but Bruce Bowen missed a
wide-open 3-pointer. On the next possession, a hobbling Bryant
worked his way into the lane and stopped short for the clinching
jumper with 24 seconds left.
O'Neal had 23 points and 17 rebounds, overcoming 9-of-22
shooting. Bryant scored 20 points despite making a Shaq-like
4-of-10 free throws.
"We are looking to see where the gremlins are hiding," said
Jackson, whose team has won 20 of its last 21 playoff games.
"It was one of those very unusual days for us."
"It was a perfect opportunity for them to get a game from us
today," added Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who made just 2-of-13
shots. "We didn't play well, but we hung tough." The Spurs may
be wondering if they ever are going to beat the Lakers. They
allowed just 13 points in the first quarter, limited Los Angeles
to 39 percent shooting, led for nearly all of the opening three
periods -- and still lost to the Lakers for the eighth time in
the last nine meetings.
That slide includes last year's conference finals, when the
Lakers swept the Spurs en route to their second straight
"I don't think we played that well," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "We can play a lot better than we played. (But) I was
real happy with the way we competed."
"We could have been sharper down the stretch," Spurs guard
Antonio Daniels added. "In the fourth quarter, we had some key
turnovers and missed shots, which is going to happen."
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday at Los Angeles.
Duncan had 26 points, 21 rebounds, five assists and four blocks,
all team highs. But he missed his first 10 shots and finished
9-of-30 from the field. San Antonio shot just 32 percent
"Shots weren't falling for me," Duncan said. "I just tried to
continue to be aggressive and take the shots that were there and
they just weren't going down for me. I just kind of fell into a
"He had a lot of great shots," Popovich said. "They didn't go
down and we would have been in better shape if they did, but you
can say that about anybody who doesn't have a great night
Despite Duncan's troubles and the continued absence of injured
7-footer David Robinson -- who usually defends the massive
O'Neal -- the Spurs still held a 67-63 lead after a banker by
Duncan with 9:53 left.
But the MVP candidate took a seat, and the impact of his absence
was immediate. O'Neal hit a lane jumper, got loose for a
fast-break dunk and sank two free throws to give LA the lead.
"We were right there," Duncan said. "We held them where we
wanted them. We had a chance. We just couldn't turn that
Duncan was 0-of-10 in the first quarter. But O'Neal was
struggling with his wrist injury and Bryant picked up two fouls,
allowing San Antonio to take a 17-13 lead.
After finally making a bank shot early in the second quarter,
Duncan got untracked and scored 10 points in the period. He
made three straight baskets to widen the lead to 38-29 before
Brian Shaw answered with a 3-pointer before halftime.
O'Neal banged his hand on the rim with 8:45 left in the third
quarter and the Lakers trailing, 40-37. They rallied for a
48-46 lead without him but trailed, 61-57, entering the final
"We've been through every situation imaginable in basketball,"
O'Neal said. "We know what it takes to win games. It was one
of those days for us, however, we still mustered up enough
energy to win the game."
Former Spur Samaki Walker had 12 points and nine rebounds for
the Lakers, who held a 54-48 edge on the glass.
Smith scored 16 points, Tony Parker added 11 and Malik Rose 10
and eight boards for the Spurs. Rose often guarded O'Neal after
starting center Mark Bryant quickly got into foul trouble.