SAN ANTONIO, May 10 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant
simply was perfect in the
fourth quarter. David Robinson
was anything but.
Bryant scored 11 of his 31 points in the final 12 minutes on
5-of-5 shooting as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San
Antonio Spurs, 99-89, and grabbed a 2-1 lead in their
best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
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"It felt good," Bryant said of the victory, which gave the
Lakers the home-court advantage they had lost in an 88-85
setback in Game Two. "We had to focus. There were a lot of
reports that we were going to lose because of the emotion. We
had to center ourselves and play every possession like it was
After Tim Duncan
hit a jumper to cap a 7-0 run that gave the
Spurs a 78-77 advantage, Brian Shaw
made a layup with 7:45 left
that sparked a 15-4 burst over the next six minutes.
Shaq put in a solid stat line of 22 points and 15 rebounds despite clearly being hobbled by injuries.|
D. Clarke Evans
Bryant made a hanging jumper in the paint to make it 81-78, and
after Duncan sank a layup, Bryant hit a spectacular alley-oop
finger roll off a feed from Rick Fox
to give the Lakers an 83-80
edge with 4:52 remaining. The Spurs got no closer thereafter.
"This game was like the last two games, very competitive," Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich said. "We went at each other hard. Down
the stretch. We couldn't get it to go in the hole. The Lakers
executed and (Shaquille O'Neal)
and Kobe made big shots and they
got them over the hump. We just couldn't get it down."
O'Neal added 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who
extended their NBA postseason record road winning streak to 10
O'Neal's lack of aggression had been criticized by Lakers coach
Phil Jackson after the 7-1, 350-pounder had 19 points and just
seven rebounds in Game Two.
Powered by O'Neal, the Lakers dominated the Spurs inside,
outscoring them in the paint, 56-36, and holding a 48-34
Duncan, who was presented the league's Most Valuable Player
trophy before the game, had 28 points and 12 rebounds but made
just 9-of-26 shots.
The Spurs shot 41 percent (32-of-79) while the Lakers finished
at 49 percent (41-of-84).
"They defended very well," Duncan said. "I missed a couple of
easy ones. Those are the ones that kind of turn your game
Spurs rookie Tony Parker
chipped in 24 points, but he was held
to only four after halftime.
"I think that in the first I was getting a lot of good looks at
the basket because I was getting a lot of pick-and-rolls,"
Parker said. "In the second half we changed things up to get
Timmy and David some looks. We really wanted to get something
inside in the second."
Robinson, who had missed the Spurs' last six playoff games with
an aggravated disc in his lower back, managed just six points
and seven rebounds. He had a fourth quarter to forget, missing
a dunk, shooting an airball on a baseline jumper and missing a
pair of free throws with his team trailing 88-82 with 2:28
"It was his first game back," Parker said. "You really can't
expect that much from somebody when they haven't played in this
long. It was good to have him back, but we all know that it will
take some time for him to be the same."
"It was mostly his wind," Popovich said. "He looked rusty, but
he did a great job with the minutes he did give us. He did get
winded, but I'm proud that he gave it that kind of shot. He did
the best job he could and Shaq did a good job."
After coming away with the rebound on the second missed free
throw, Bryant fed Robert Horry
for a dunk and, after a
successful defensive stand, Bryant made another jumper in the
paint to give the Lakers a 92-82 advantage with 1:40 left.
"I thought it was an extremely well-played game in the first
half," Jackson said. "We rode our momentum into the fourth
quarter and played good defense. We stayed with what was
working. Kobe had a great game, so I didn't take him out this
game. He played the full 48 minutes."
"I thought down the stretch he hit some big ones for them,"
Duncan said of Bryant. "On team defense we need to do a better
job of rotating over and helping him once he gets into the air.
Kobe is tough. He makes shots. We just need to do a better job
defensively of getting to him."
Parker had 12 points in the first 12 minutes as the Spurs took a
28-24 lead. Bryant countered with 10 in the second quarter to
guide the Lakers to a 53-52 edge.
"In the first half it was important we take the swell of the
emotion out (of the crowd)," Jackson said. "They had the lead
and we stuck with them."
O'Neal, who only had 10 points at the break and appeared to be
bothered by the left ankle sprain he suffered in Game Two, made
his presence felt in the paint in the third quarter, scoring 12
points as Los Angeles entered the final period with a 74-71
Fox made 1-of-2 free throws and a turnaround jumper to begin the
fourth quarter before the Spurs scored the next seven points to
take the lead for the final time.
Neither team shot well from the outside. The Lakers made just
3-of-12 shots from 3-point range while the Spurs went 4-of-17
from the arc.
"We had a good number of wide-open shots, they just didn't go
down," Popovich said. "They played good defense and did
everything they needed to do."
The Lakers' victory was their sixth in their last seven playoff
games against the Spurs and 21st in 23 postseason contests since
losing Game Six of the 2000 Western Conference finals to
Portland. Los Angeles won Game Seven of that series en route to
the NBA championship, then went 15-1 while winning a second
straight title in 2001. The Lakers are 5-1 this postseason in
their quest for a three-peat.
"I love playing here with 35,000 fans screaming at the top of
their lungs," Bryant said. "When you make a run and you or your
teammate hits one that quiets the fans, it feels great."
"Kobe is a big-time player in this league and tonight he showed
that," said Horry, who had nine points. "I don't think any of
the shots he got tonight were easy. They were all nines on a
scale of 10. But he knows that playing like that, being
aggressive, makes it easier on Shaq, the way he is feeling right
now, and all of us really."