San Antonio 95, L.A. Lakers 89
LOS ANGELES, April 4 (Ticker) --
In their own subtle, business-like
way, the San Antonio Spurs reminded the Los Angeles Lakers - and
everyone else - that they are the NBA champions.
NBA TV highlights from|
scored 29 points as the Spurs ended the 11-game
winning streak of the Lakers and continued their own late-season
push with a methodical 95-89 victory.
"They've been playing better than any other team in the league,
and for us to come in here and win means we're getting better,"
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We still have a ways to go.
But at least we can feel comfortable in the sense that we are
getting better and that we're in the hunt. It was a great win."
"They are defending champions until someone beats them,"
admitted Lakers guard Kobe Bryant
While the Spurs have operated beneath the radar, the Lakers have
been the talk of the NBA virtually all season, with a lineup of
four future Hall of Famers and what seemed to be a weekly issue
involving at least one of them.
Over the last three weeks, all four superstars have been
healthy, allowing the Lakers to put together their longest
winning streak of the season. Some said they had become
unbeatable and were tuning up for another championship.
But it was the Spurs who ended the three-year title run of the
Lakers last spring and it was the Spurs again stopping the
Lakers cold, controlling the last three quarters of the
nationally televised game.
"It's always been like that. We are not paying attention to
that," Parker said. "I think it is normal that we talk about
them. But it's OK. We'll be there for the playoffs. Because
we're San Antonio, we are a small city, so they don't talk much
"You don't have to talk about us," said swingman Bruce Bowen
who had his usual stellar defensive game. "We're just vanilla,
whereas the Lakers are Chunky Monkey, or something like that."
The key was Parker, the French point guard who ran the
pick-and-roll with superstar Tim Duncan to perfection. He
repeatedly got inside LA's defense for easy shots for himself or
teammates, collecting nine assists.
The Spurs exploited Lakers superstar center Shaquille O'Neal
who is reluctant to move his feet against the pick-and-roll.
When O'Neal came out, Parker went past him. When O'Neal dropped
back, Parker found Tim Duncan
"It may have been the pick-and-rolls," Parker said. "With Timmy
and Kevin Willis
, we did a pretty good job with the
pick-and-rolls. I was pretty open. I knew if I made a couple of
shots on the outside it would open it up for Timmy."
"Today we just weren't rotating quick enough, and they hit some
big shots on us," O'Neal said. "And Tony Parker played good. He
had his way with us. So we have to figure out how we're going
to play this team."
Duncan had 18 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for San
Antonio (52-25), which has won six in a row. The Spurs are one
game behind Los Angeles (53-24) in the Western Conference and 1
1/2 behind Minnesota (54-24) in the Midwest Division.
"We need to try and win all the games left and see what
happens," Parker said. "We're confident we can win on the road.
So it doesn't matter if we get the top seed or not. It is great
to have that home-court advantage, but if (we) don't have it,
we can win on the road."
Bryant scored 28 points, Gary Payton
added 21, O'Neal 17 and
12. But the four superstars were the only players
in double figures for the Lakers, who never led in the second
"I never felt that we had the kind of energy in the game that I
like to have," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It felt like
the direction or tempo that controlled the game was all Spur
Parker did that at the end of the first half. With O'Neal off
the floor with foul trouble, he scored the first seven points in
a 9-0 run that gave the Spurs a 53-42 lead.
In the third quarter, LA surged into a 56-56 tie before San
Antonio took the lead for good as Duncan hit three straight
jumpers off the pick-and-roll, helping open a 69-62 lead.
"We're moving the ball really well, running the offense real
well, running pick-and-rolls with Tony, so we're just finding
different ways to attack people," Duncan said.
The Lakers had just one basket in the first five minutes of the
fourth quarter and their frustration showed as Malone was
whistled for a technical foul. Three free throws by Manu Ginobili
gave the Spurs their largest lead at 84-70 with 6:19 to
Two foul shots and a drive by Parker stemmed a surge by the
Lakers and made it 88-80 with 4:14 left. The Lakers got within
88-84 with 3:02 remaining, but Duncan drilled an 18-footer, then
whipped a lefthanded pass to Parker for a 3-pointer that sealed
Bowen scored 12 points and limited Bryant to 9-of-26 shooting
for the Spurs, who had lost the first three meetings between the
teams. However, all three came in the first six weeks of the
season, and Duncan missed two with an injury.
"They were playing with a lot of confidence and we came here and
we did a great job and beat them," said Ginobili, who scored 12
points. "They were really rolling and playing very well,
beating everybody. It was very important for us to get a win