Shaq, Lakers block Spurs' run

Posted: Monday, May 10, 2004

LOS ANGELES Don't count the Lakers and their Fab Four out just yet.

Facing a must-win situation, Shaquille O'Neal dominated the inside and Los Angeles made life miserable for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, routing the Spurs 105-81 Sunday to cut their lead to 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.

O'Neal had 28 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and eight blocked shots, and Kobe Bryant added 22 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Lakers.

But it was the defensive end where the Lakers won the game.

Duncan scored 54 points and Parker 50 in leading the Spurs to 10-point victories to begin the series. Duncan shot 4-of-14 for 10 points and committed six turnovers, and Parker was 4-of-12 for eight points with three turnovers in Game 3.

Only seven NBA teams have come back to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games. But no team has ever prevailed after losing the first three a fact the Lakers knew only too well.

Game 4 will be played Tuesday night at Staples Center, with Game 5 Thursday night in San Antonio.

The loss snapped a 17-game San Antonio winning streak the last 11 of the regular season and the first six of the playoffs. The Spurs had also won eight straight postseason games dating back to the NBA Finals against New Jersey last June.

Gary Payton had 15 points and seven assists, and Karl Malone added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Lakers, who shot 56.9 percent.

With some help from his teammates, the much-criticized Payton did most of the defensive work on the speedy Parker.

Manu Ginobili scored 17 points and fellow reserve Devin Brown added 16 for the Spurs, who shot 34.1 percent and committed 21 turnovers two less than their total in the first two games.

Duncan also had 13 rebounds to lead his team to a 45-41 advantage in that department.

The Lakers took command by outscoring the Spurs 18-5 for a 68-45 lead late in the third quarter.

It was 75-58 entering the final period. The Spurs scored five straight points to draw within 12, but the Lakers scored the next 10 to clinch the victory.

The Lakers led 42-32 at halftime, and it was surprising the margin wasn't greater considering Duncan was 1-for-8 for two points with four turnovers while Parker was 2-of-8 for four points with two turnovers.

Parker had one turnover in each of the first two games.

Six of the Spurs' 12 first-half baskets were 3-pointers. They shot 12-of-40 overall while the Lakers were 18-of-34.

Bryant made 3-pointers to start and finish a 12-0 run that gave the Lakers a 19-8 lead, and they were on top the rest of the way. The Lakers had assists on 11 of their 12 baskets in the first quarter.

Nets 82, Pistons 64

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The Nets rediscovered their fast break and took a big early lead, and Richard Jefferson made sure things stayed that way.

The Pistons still lead the series 2-1, with the Nets looking to tie it in Game 4 Tuesday night.

In order to do so, they'll likely stick with what worked best using their superior speed as much as possible, letting Jefferson carry a bigger load on offense and keeping things relatively even on the boards.

Ben Wallace grabbed 24 rebounds for Detroit, but he was the only member of the Pistons to display the same type of energy that fueled Detroit's lopsided victories in Games 1 and 2.

Plenty of factors could have hurt the Nets, including another awful shooting performance by Jason Kidd (2-for-14) and foul trouble for Kenyon Martin that limited him to 21 minutes. But New Jersey never let an early 21-point lead get too diminished, answering each time the Pistons got anywhere near striking distance.

A double foul was called on Rasheed Wallace and Martin with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter and the Nets ahead by 14, forcing Martin back to the bench with his fifth personal.

But Jefferson reached 30 points on a floater just seconds after Martin departed, and Kerry Kittles came up with a steal and turned it into a dunk off a 2-on-1 break for an 18-point bulge.

Suspense was at a premium thereafter as it was throughout a slow-paced, foul-filled game, New Jersey's first at home since April 20 and the Pistons never threatened.

Kittles scored 17, but his biggest contribution was his defense on Chauncey Billups, who averaged 17 points in the first two games of the series but was limited to two on 1-for-10 shooting as Nets coach Lawrence Frank made a key strategical adjustment by taking the defensive assignment against Billups away from Kidd.

Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton had 15 points each for the Pistons, who shot only 22-for-76 (29 percent).

The game got away from the Pistons quickly, Rasheed Wallace going to the bench with two fouls before Detroit even scored a point. Seven of New Jersey's first 11 points came on the fast break, and the Nets took their first double-digit lead before the game was even four minutes old.

A fast-break dunk by Kitties make it 15-2 as Detroit was missing nine of its first 10 shots, and Martin had seven points, five rebounds and two steals before picking up his second foul with 4:38 remaining in the quarter and the Nets ahead 18-4.

Jefferson drained a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left in the first quarter for a 31-13 lead, then opened the second quarter with another 3.

Martin picked up his fourth foul a charging call just 21 seconds into the third quarter, but Jefferson didn't let his absence become a problem. He hit a 3-pointer while being tightly defended for a 60-46 lead, then nailed a tough turnaround jumper from 20 feet as the shot clock expired to make it 64-48.

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