L.A. Lakers 99, San Antonio 95
LOS ANGELES, May 11 (Ticker) --
Missing their head coach and with
their backs against the wall, Kobe Bryant
, Shaquille O'Neal
the Los Angeles Lakers responded with a championship effort.
Bryant and O'Neal came up big down the stretch on offense and on
defense as the Lakers eked out a 99-95 victory over the San
Antonio Spurs to even their best-of-seven Western Conference
semifinal series at two games apiece.
Trailing by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter and
by 10 points midway through the third, the Lakers were in
serious danger of falling behind, 3-1 to the top-seeded Spurs.
But behind Bryant and O'Neal, Los Angeles powered its way back
into the game and outplayed San Antonio in the waning moments.
O'Neal, a poor free-throw shooter, sank a pair with 1:17 left to
even the contest, 95-95. The All-Star center then stole a pass
by Tim Duncan
intended for Stephen Jackson
in the paint with a
minute remaining, and Bryant sank 1-of-2 free throws 12 seconds
later to put the Lakers ahead for good.
On the Spurs' ensuing possession, Duncan dribbled the ball off
his foot but dived on the floor kicked it out to Jackson on the
perimeter. But Jackson missed a 3-pointer as the shot clock
wound down, giving the Lakers the ball with 24 seconds left.
"Tim slipped," Jackson said. "Their defense didn't have
anything. That forced us to take a bad shot. That's it. We've
worked so hard to win this game. We let it get away at the
, Malik Rose
and Bruce Bowen
attempted to foul Derek
but none was called, allowing the Lakers to take 10
seconds off the clock before Bryant was fouled. He calmly sank
two free throws to give the Lakers a 98-95 lead with 14 seconds
left, forcing the Spurs to take a timeout.
Bryant then intercepted Parker's terrible inbound pass to Manu
, and he hit 1-of-2 free throws to cap the scoring with
11 seconds left.
"It was a bad decision," Parker said of his pass, which came
just before the Spurs were to be whistled for a five-second
violation. "Maybe I was in too great of a hurry."
"I try to conserve myself at the offensive end," Bryant said.
"I never rest on the defensive end."
Bryant finished with 35 points and O'Neal had 29 and 17 rebounds
for Los Angeles, which shot just 39 percent (28-of-71) but made
35-of-45 free throws while San Antonio made 20-of-26. Bryant
went 14-of-17 from the stripe and O'Neal a surprising 17-of-23.
"Obviously, Kobe did a great job getting to the hole and getting
some calls and making free throws," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "Shaq did a great job tonight on the line and made his
free throws and we didn't finish as well."
"Defensively I thought we were pretty solid," Duncan said.
"(But) 45 free throws ... there is not much you can do about
that when they get 20 more free throws than you."
The Lakers were missing coach Phil Jackson, who was resting
after undergoing an angioplasty on Saturday to undo 90 percent
blockage in an artery. Jim Cleamons, a longtime assistant under
Jackson, coached the Lakers in Jackson's absence.
"I think Cleamons did a wonderful job," O'Neal said. "He told
everybody to stay involved and I think we did that. He did a
It is not known if Jackson will be cleared to travel to San
Antonio for Game Five on Tuesday night. Jackson has won nine
championships, tying the legendary Red Auerbach atop the
all-time list. His playoff record of 159-58 is the best in NBA
"We have encountered so many different challenges this year,"
Bryant said. "We just look at (Jackson's absence) as another
obstacle. We thrive in these types of situations."
Duncan contributed 36 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs,
who led by 43-27 with just under four minutes left in the first
half. But Duncan went to the bench after acquiring a third foul
with 3:27 left - seven seconds after Bryant also was whistled
for a third foul - and Los Angeles pulled within 46-39 at the
The Lakers trailed by 64-55 with 3:10 to play in the third
quarter before closing the period on a 16-3 run after Duncan
picked up his fourth foul. Neither team led by more than four
points in the fourth quarter.
Duncan scored 13 points during a 21-4 Spurs run bridging the
first and second quarters, giving San Antonio a 38-23 lead with
6:25 left in the half.
Fisher countered with a 3-pointer with 5:30 to play in the
period for the first points scored by a Laker aside from Bryant
"I kept writing on Phil's pad to move the ball and pass the ball
and cut and try to do things to try to break down their good
pressure, and obviously my pen does not work as well as his
does," Cleamons said. "But the fact remains that somewhere down
the line we got some points from Fisher, which helped and took
the pressure off of Kobe and Shaq and their thinking that they
have to go out and do everything."
Jackson gave the Spurs their biggest lead, 43-27, with 3:54
remaining before the break, but Duncan soon picked up his third
foul and the momentum of the game changed.
"Those guys really switched it up," Duncan said. "I thought
they did a great job of (it). Everyone just tried to give me a
different look and I think that is what they were going for."
The Lakers received nine points from Devean George
and zero from
fellow starting forward Robert Horry
, but Fisher scored 17.
"My hat goes off to my teammates," O'Neal said. "We kept
fighting. They did a wonderful job of just keep on fighting,
fighting, fighting. Guys were diving on the floor, fighting for
loose balls, hitting shots, playing team ball. If we keep
playing like that, I think we'll be fine."
Jackson totaled 15 points, Parker 14 and the reserve Ginobili 13
for the Spurs, but starting center David Robinson
manhandled by O'Neal, fouling out with no points and three
rebounds with 7:13 to play in the contest.
"I can't put into words how frustrating it is to lose this
game," Jackson said.
"It's even, 2-2, and now we go back home," Parker said. "Now
Game Five is a must-win."
Both teams shot well from the arc, with the Spurs sinking half
of their 18 attempts and the Lakers connecting on 8-of-16.
"We had to come from behind (against Portland in the 2000
conference finals) our first championship year," said Bryant,
whose team is trying to win a fourth straight title. "Our
experience means a lot and it keeps us focused - we know what it
takes to win. We've been there before."