Spurs, Tim, Dunk Lakers, Head to Conference Finals

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San Antonio 110, L.A. Lakers 82
Spurs, Tim, Dunk Lakers, Head to Conference Finals

Tony Parker scored 27 points in Game 6.
Catherine Steenkeste
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LOS ANGELES, May 15 (Ticker) -- A steady diet of Tim Duncan was the recipe the San Antonio Spurs used to end the reign of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Duncan collected 37 points and 16 rebounds as the Spurs never trailed after the game's first minute and cruised to a 110-82 rout, ending the run of the three-time defending champion Lakers.

San Antonio won the series in six games and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three years. The Spurs will face Dallas or Sacramento.

"Tim Duncan is a fantastic competitor, as we all know," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "But I thought in Game 5 and Game 6, he was astounding in his focus. He pulled everyone along these last two games."

San Antonio was the last team to defeat the Lakers in the postseason, sweeping them in the semifinals in the Spurs' 1999 championship season. The win also snapped Los Angeles' run of 13 straight playoff series triumphs.

"I thought, for the most part of the series, we really controlled the tempo, we did a lot of good things," Spurs center David Robinson said. "They just showed a lot of heart. They fought us tooth and nail. We've just been playing so well lately, even on the road."

Los Angeles, which needed just nine games to eliminate San Antonio in the last two postseasons, was thoroughly outplayed down the stretch. Shaquille O'Neal went to the bench with 4:34 remaining and the Lakers trailing, 98-76. It was an ignominious end for a team seeking to become the first to win four straight titles since the Boston Celtics won eight straight from 1959-66.

"The Spurs were better," O'Neal said. "We beat them the past two years. We knew what they were capable of. The Spurs were the team this year."

Duncan demonstrated why he earned his second straight Most Valuable Player award with a virtuoso performance. He made 16-of-25 shots, setting the tone in the first quarter by making 7-of-8 shots for 15 points.

"Coming into this series, they (the Lakers) decided to let me do what I had to do and shut everybody else down," Duncan said. "It kind of came hard early on, because my shots didn't feel great early on."

"The guys that thought maybe Tim Duncan didn't deserve the MVP have changed their minds," Spurs rookie Emanuel Ginobili said. "In the clutch of important games and you play like that, you are the best."

A 10-0 tear that featured eight points from Duncan established San Antonio's first double-digit lead at 76-64 with just over one minute left in the third quarter. Tony Parker, who finished with 27 points, went coast-to-coast for a layup and a 78-69 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Parker's basket came immediately after a three-pointer by Kobe Bryant cut the Lakers' deficit to seven.

"After Kobe hit that three, I wanted to stop their run," Parker said. "I saw that opening and just went for it. That basket hurt the Lakers."

Instead of Los Angeles making a last stand, San Antonio put an exclamation point on the victory with a dominant display. The Spurs scored 10 of the first 14 points, shot 60 percent (12-of-20) in the period and limited the Lakers to just six baskets.

"They played a great second half against us that really took the air out of the building and out of the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They left no doubt about the fact that they were the better team in the series."

O'Neal finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds and Bryant netted 20 points for the Lakers, which did not get enough contributions from the rest of the team.

It was a surreal ending for the Lakers, who had rookies Jannero Pargo and Kareem Rush on the floor in the final moments as the Spurs stretched out the lead. Popovich actually called a timeout with 2:26 left to instruct his team not to celebrate excessively.

"I didn't think we were going to win the way we did," Spurs forward Malik Rose said. "We fully intended to come here and get it done. It was nice to have that seventh game in our hip pocket."

Those words were unnecessary for the soft-spoken Duncan, who once again did his talking with his performance. Duncan had no trouble in his matchup with Robert Horry, using an assortment of moves to exploit the smaller Horry.

Jackson saw his NBA record of 25 straight playoff series triumphs end, suffering his first loss since his Chicago Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in six games in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. Jackson, who underwent an angioplasty and missed Game 4, was non-committal about his future.

"Whether I coach them or not, they'll be fine," Jackson said of the Lakers. "When you make correct decisions and do things correctly, your expectations are fulfilled, especially when you put the effort in. This year we couldn't do that, we couldn't make the correct steps."

Parker had been outplayed by Stephon Marbury in San Antonio's first-round series victory over Phoenix and was aired out by Popovich after an ill-advised shot early in the game. The second-year guard showed remarkable poise -- a quality lacking in San Antonio in stretches of this series -- and made 9-of-19 shots in outplaying Derek Fisher and Pargo.

"You have to give coach Pop a lot of credit," Parker said. "He gave me a lot of freedom. And they (the coaches) called plays to create an opportunity for me to penetrate. At times, he wanted to pull out his hair out because we were doing crazy things."

San Antonio shot 65 percent (13-of-20) in building a 29-25 lead after one quarter thanks to Duncan's early strong play. The Spurs led by as many as nine points in the second period before settling for a 54-50 edge.

A driving layup by Ginobili gave San Antonio an 84-70 lead early in the fourth quarter, prompting a timeout by Jackson. Slava Medvedenko responded with a layup, but Parker made a free throw and 40-year-old Kevin Willis outhustled a pair of Lakers for a tip-in that triggered a 15-4 run.

"Kevin Willis was at 41 running as hard as he could," Rose said. "(He was) rebounding, never quitting."

After a basket by O'Neal cut the deficit to 88-74, Ginobili and Bruce Bowen nailed a 3-pointer and Willis scored on a follow slam with 5:59 remaining, forcing Jackson to burn another timeout as the STAPLES Center began to empty. A foul shot by Ginobili made it 99-76 with 4:34 remaining.

Los Angeles shot 85 free throws in winning Games 3 and 4, but Thursday's game was a huge departure. The Lakers were just 6-of-13 from the foul line and did not have a single foul shot in the final 10 minutes.

"I'm ready to get right in the gym tonight and start getting ready for next year," Bryant said. "I don't like this feeling. I really don't. And I don't want to have this feeling ever again."

Horry epitomized the struggles of the Lakers role players by managing only two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Horry, whose potential game-winning three-point attempt in Game 5 rimmed out, missed all three from beyond the arc on Thursday and was 0-for-18 on 3-pointers in the series.

Led by Duncan, the Spurs enjoyed a 44-32 edge on the glass and scored 23 points off 14 turnovers by the Lakers. Ginobili came off the bench for 10 points for San Antonio, which made 6-of-9 shots from beyond the arc.

"What a great feeling," Rose said. "We've been working the past three seasons just to get with these guys. They had three championships, the two best players in the world and they still do. But we worked every day to get where they are."