LOS ANGELES, May 14 (Ticker) --
The Los Angeles Lakers used a familiar
formula to get back to the Western Conference finals: Kobe
making shots in the fourth quarter and the San Antonio
Spurs missing them.
Bryant scored 26 points and again starred down the stretch and
the Lakers dispatched the sputtering Spurs in five games with a
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The third-seeded Lakers eliminated the second-seeded Spurs from
the playoffs for the second straight year and advanced to an
anticipated showdown with the top-seeded Sacramento Kings, who
host Game 1 of the conference finals Saturday.
"We're one of the only teams that have won on their court,"
Lakers superstar center Shaquille O'Neal
said. "We just have to
play our game. We're not going to play back and forth. They
have something to prove. We don't."
Shaq packed it in on Tim Duncan, got the MVP in foul trouble, and the Spurs in big trouble.|
Game Five followed a similar script as the previous four. Led
by Tim Duncan
, the Spurs maintained control into the fourth
quarter, when their offense stalled and Bryant took charge. The
superstar guard scored 46 points in the final periods of the
series, including 10 on Tuesday.
"Same kind of game, same result," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "It's disappointing for us, but the Lakers played like
champions the last four or five minutes of every game we
"We expect to win every game," Bryant said. "(If the) game is
close in the fourth quarter, we expect to win. We play to win.
Some teams play to lose. The team definitely had a little
swagger about ourselves and a little more confidence about
Bryant scored on consecutive possessions to give the Lakers
control. He penetrated for a spin move that gave LA an 83-81
lead with 2:57 remaining. After a layup by Antonio Daniels
San Antonio the seventh and last tie of the quarter, Bryant
drove for a bank shot to give the Lakers the lead for good with
2:22 to go.
Duncan, who had 34 points and franchise playoff-record 25
rebounds, missed inside, leading to a driving layup by Rick Fox
with 1:27 left. San Antonio's Tony Parker
missed a 3-pointer,
and Bryant drew the defense before passing to Robert Horry
3-pointer that sealed it with 56 seconds remaining.
"In the fourth quarter Kobe came up big for us with some shots
and obviously made a big pass to finish it," Lakers coach Phil
The play was similar to the one that ended the first-round
series against Portland. In both instances, Horry took a pass
from a driving Bryant and hit a shot from the right corner.
O'Neal had 21 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks for two-time
defending champion Los Angeles, which has won 23 of its last 25
playoff games. During that stretch, the Lakers are 8-1 against
the Spurs, beating them every way imaginable.
In last year's sweep in the conference finals, LA humiliated San
Antonio, winning by an average of 22 points. This year, the
wins came by an average of six points, with all of them decided
in crunch time.
"I thought we really had a chance at this series," Duncan said.
"The Lakers proved to be more than we could handle. Again, we
had a (heck) of a run at it. We had opportunities to win games
and make it a different series, but that's just the way the ball
Once again, Duncan was phenomenal. The NBA Most Valuable Player
made 11-of-23 shots and 12-of-14 free throws, adding four
assists and two blocks. And once again, he did not have enough
"Tonight I would've liked to have gotten more done and really
help Tim," said Spurs center David Robinson
, who was scoreless
in 18 foul-plagued minutes. "Tim was like Superman out there; he
was doing everything. But I'll tell you what -- those guys are
good. They make all the plays when they need to."
Daniels scored 15 points and Parker added 14 for the Spurs, who
matched the Lakers for six straight scores until Bryant took
charge. Their 26 fourth-quarter points were more than 10 above
their average for the first four games.
"You can definitely see the experience that they have and the
cohesivenessas a unit because they've been through this ... and
we haven't," Daniels admitted.
"The playoffs always tend to kind of show your weaknesses,"
Robinson said. "Whatever it is, it'll come out, it'll be
glaring. For us, although we were a really good defensive team,
sometimes we have a little struggle at the end (of the game).
When they have a Kobe Bryant, that's kind of a nice luxury."
Bryant had consecutive baskets to give LA a 66-65 lead, but
Parker had three-point plays around a follow shot by Devean
, giving San Antonio a 71-68 advantage with 7:59
Baskets by O'Neal and Fox made it 72-71 with 6:58 to go, and the
Lakers never trailed again, although the Spurs tied it six
times. Duncan had just one more basket, a three-point play that
tied it, 75-75, with 5:41 to play.
Fox scored 17 points for the Lakers, who shot 45 percent
(35-of-78) and committed just 11 turnovers. Malik Rose
11 points and Bruce Bowen
10 for the Spurs, who shot 44 percent
(31-of-71) but gave it away 16 times.
Again, the Spurs started well. Rose scored seven points in a
15-4 run that gave San Antonio a 28-15 lead with 10:50 left in
the second quarter.
Four free throws by Duncan kept the lead at 45-33 with 2:14
remaining in the first half before the Lakers scored the final
"We had a hard time making shots in the first half and then we
had a little rally at the end of the second quarter and came
into the locker room feeling a little better about ourselves,"
Baskets by Parker and Duncan opened the second half before LA
rattled off 10 straight points to tie it. A jumper by Bryant
gave the Lakers a 62-61 lead entering the final period.