Spurs Take Two-Game Lead Over Lakers

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San Antonio 114, L.A. Lakers 95
Spurs Take Two-Game Lead Over Lakers

Bruce Bowen hit a Spurs playoff-record seven three-pointers Wednesday.
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SAN ANTONIO, May 7 (Ticker) -- Bruce Bowen was supposed to try to contain Kobe Bryant. But the Los Angeles Lakers could not contain Bowen.

Bowen drilled a team playoff-record seven three-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points as the Spurs rolled to a 114-95 rout of the Lakers in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

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A defensive specialist, Bowen's primary responsibility in this series is to guard Bryant, who is one of the NBA's top offensive players. He also is expected to hit an occasional shot.

Bowen did a lot more in this one as the Spurs grabbed a 2-0 lead over the three-time defending NBA champions. They made a major statement in Game 2, never trailing and leading by as many as 33 points.

Taking advantage of good looks at the basket, Bowen went 10-of-12 from the field and made 7-of-8 three-pointers. He sank five three-pointers in the first half, helping the Spurs open a 60-43 lead. San Antonio extended the advantage to 94-67 after three quarters, rendering the final 12 minutes meaningless.

"It was a career high, it's the playoffs, so it's amplified," said Bowen, whose previous career best was 21 points. "Everyone is watching because we are the only game going on. It's the best game I've had as an NBA player."

"Bruce did a phenomenal job of making plays and shooting the ball from the outside," said Spurs center David Robinson, who managed just four points. "He really helped get us going and he just never cooled off. What a terrific performance, and you cannot say enough about the effort he gave tonight."

Even though he averaged just 7.1 points per game during the regular season, Bowen led the league in three-point shooting at 44 percent.

"He wants to shoot the basketball," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I don't know where he finished during the regular season. I was sort of surprised he couldn't buy one in the Phoenix series. It was good to see him get it back."

Jaren Jackson held the previous team record for three-pointers in a playoff game with six during the 1999 conference finals against Portland.

Bowen was averaging just 5.6 points in his first seven playoff games. His previous postseason high was 13 in last season's conference semifinals against the Lakers.

Rookie Manu Ginobili, a key factor in Game 1 for San Antonio, had another big night. The Argentina native had 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 17 on 5-of-7 shooting.

With the unexpected offensive firepower from Bowen and Ginobili, NBA Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan did not have to do much. Duncan netted 13 points to go with 12 rebounds and seven assists and sat out the entire fourth quarter.

Things were so bad after three quarters for the Lakers that superstar center Shaquille O'Neal watched the final 12 minutes from the bench and Bryant played sparingly. Both scored 27 points.

"Give the Spurs credit, they did what they had to do on their home court," O'Neal said. "Going down 0-2, we are in a dangerous spot, but this team can bounce back and we have to take care of business in Los Angeles."

"We just have to now come in and take this as an opportunity to make plays and hold serve on our home court," Bryant said. "They really cut us up tonight with their penetration, but we have to take this as an opportunity to come out there and just make plays."

The Spurs, seeking revenge after being eliminated by the Lakers in the playoffs each of the previous two seasons, look to keep the momemtum going when the series shifts to Los Angeles on Friday.

"We have to go in with the same energy," Duncan said. "We did our part keeping home-court. We have to focus on the first game and put the pressure on their shoulders."

"This series is not over. They are a championship basketball team," Bowen added.

Trying to force another game in San Antonio would be an accomplishment for the Lakers, who have some key injuries and have lost all six meetings between the teams this season. Including the postseason, San Antonio has just eight losses since February 20.

It also is the first time the Lakers have lost the first two games of a series under coach Phil Jackson, who has won his last 25 playoff series.

"That was a royal kick in the butt by this team," Jackson said. "We couldn't find a way to slow them down. We made some bad decisions and they benefited from a lot of them. Their shooting was terrific, especially Bruce Bowen."

One of the Lakers' key injuries is to forward Devean George, who suffered a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Brian Shaw replaced George in the lineup and failed to make an impact with six points on 3-of-9 shooting. With Shaw in the lineup, Bryant slid over from shooting guard to small forward.

It did not matter where Bryant played as Ginobili and Bowen stole the show in the first quarter. Ginobili made his first four shots and Bowen hit two three-pointers in the opening two minutes.

Ginobili's runner with 2:32 left in the quarter gave the Spurs a 26-16 lead. Veteran Danny Ferry sank a three-pointer in the final five seconds, making it 31-18.

"I am just happy to keep contributing," Ginobili said. "We just got into a great rhythm and we just have to keep attacking and working hard and make plays."

San Antonio shot 67 percent (12-of-18) and held a 13-4 rebounding advantage in the first 12 minutes. It had to be a surprising offensive outburst for San Antonio, which managed just 38 points in the first half of Game 1.

The Lakers were within 43-36 with 5:54 left in the half following a jumper by Bryant, who went 9-of-24 from the field. He is just 25-of-62 through the first two games while being hounded by Bowen.

The Spurs closed the half on a 17-7 run, including eight points from point guard Tony Parker. He drove to the basket for an uncontested layup with four seconds left, opening a 60-43 bulge.

San Antonio got plenty of good looks in the first half, when it shot a blistering 60 percent (24-of-40). The Lakers shot 46 percent (18-of-39) and committed nine turnovers.

Parker finished with 16 points, backup point guard Speedy Claxton had 15 and Stephen Jackson 10 for the Spurs, who shot 56 percent (42-of-75) overall and placed six players in double figures.

"We really shot the ball well tonight," Parker said. "Bruce especially got it going for us and I think Stephen (Jackson), myself and Manu just continued to make plays and help out our big guys."

O'Neal, who had 15 points in the first half, was one of the few bright spots for the Lakers as he made 10-of-14 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds. Los Angeles shot 45 percent (36-of-80) overall.

Bowen stepped inside the arc to drill a jumper with 7:50 left in the third quarter, triggering a 22-7 surge that turned the game into a rout. He also hit a pair three-pointers and had 10 points in the spurt that Kevin Willis capped with a jumper, giving the Spurs their biggest lead at 90-57.

"We have battled through adversity all year long," said Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who scored five points. "It kinda has been this team's motto. We have to and will make adjustments before Friday's game. We will figure things out and come out as a different team on Friday."