San Antonio 98, L.A. Lakers 89
SAN ANTONIO, March 23 (Ticker) --
While the playoffs are considered a
new season in the NBA, the three-time defending champion Los
Angeles Lakers may not want to run into the San Antonio Spurs.
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had 27 points and 17 rebounds and Tony Parker
18 points as the Spurs completed their second ever
regular-season sweep of the Lakers with a 98-89 victory.
"We've only beaten them twice. Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal)
played in two of the games," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich noted.
"They are still the best team on the planet until proven
different in the playoffs. We've been fortunate to beat them
Duncan scored 16 points in the first half, when the Spurs built
a 39-36 lead. Rookie Emanuel Ginobili
came off the bench and
scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Spurs
held off a rally by Kobe Bryant
and the Lakers.
"I felt very relaxed out there," Ginobili said. "Everyone just
really played hard, and it was a total team effort. I am just
looking forward to continue to improve and move forward."
Parker was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, including six in
the final minute, as San Antonio swept Los Angeles for the first
time since the 1993-94 season.
The Spurs had lost two straight home games, including an
overtime defeat to Minnesota on Friday.
"We had a lot of different players step up tonight," Parker
said. "I felt that we did a lot of great things today in terms
of scoring and just getting good looks. We really rebounded
well from what were two tough games here. We need to continue
to build, and Manu (Ginobili), Malik (Rose)
did a great job
Bryant, who was hounded by Bruce Bowen
and limited to 2-of-12
shooting in the first half, had 11 straight points for the
Lakers in the fourth period.
"He did an incredible job tonight slowing down Kobe," Parker
said of Bowen. "He makes him work for every shot that he gets
and that really tires him out."
After Parker slipped and lost control of his dribble, Bryant
completed a fast break with a dunk to pull Los Angeles within
84-79 with 2:48 remaining. But the Lakers got no closer as
Duncan hit a one-handed jumper in the lane 17 seconds later.
Shaquille O'Neal had 32 points and 12 rebounds and Bryant added
31 and nine for the Lakers, who fell one game behind Utah for
sixth place in the Western Conference.
O'Neal was not upset about getting swept. The Lakers have
beaten the Spurs in each of the last two postseasons.
"This is the regular season, not the playoffs, so this loss is
not a big deal," he said. "We just need to get everyone
clicking and we'll be fine. We've been making too many mistakes
down the stretch. We have a lot of opportunities, but were too
contributed 11 points, while Bowen and Rose each
added 10 for the Spurs, who have won eight of their last 10
games and are third in the West. The 6-8 Rose also had 12
rebounds and guarded the 7-2 O'Neal for the majority of his 28
minutes off the bench.
After Duncan's jumper in the paint, Bowen stripped the ball from
Bryant. The Spurs failed to convert, but Bryant missed a
jumper and Parker hit a pair of free throws to push San
Antonio's lead to 88-79 with 1:40 left.
The Lakers again got within five points seven seconds later as
O'Neal powered through the lane and hit a bank shot. Bryant
made a pair of free throws with 68 seconds left to pull Los
Angeles within 88-83, but Parker hit the first of his six 19
Parker had eight points in the third quarter, when San Antonio
outscored Los Angeles, 30-17. He capped a 10-1 run with a
running layup to give the Spurs a 49-39 advantage with 8:53
left. Speedy Claxton's
only basket of the game, a layup, gave
the Spurs their biggest lead, 68-49, with 2;17 left.
"It was a disappointing finish tonight, we came out flat in the
third quarter," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "The Spurs
bench was critical to us tonight. We just have to take our
lumps and come back and play better."