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Bryant finds groove just in time for Lakers

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

SAN ANTONIO -- Kobe Bryant played all 48 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs, and struggled to find a shooting groove for nearly all of that time.

He finally found it as the game wound down, scoring four baskets in the final five minutes as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled away for a 99-89 victory over the Spurs in Game 3 of their best-of-seven playoff series.

Bryant made all five of his fourth-quarter shots and finished with 31 points in lifting the Lakers to a 2-1 advantage in games. He shot just 10-of-26 during the first three periods.

''Kobe is a big-time player in this league, and tonight he showed that,'' teammate Robert Horry said. ''I don't think any of the shots he got tonight were easy. They were all nines on a scale of 10.''

Shaquille O'Neal scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Derek Fisher had 13 points and Samaki Walker 12 for Los Angeles.

The Lakers have won 10 straight road playoff games. Game 4 is at the Alamodome on Sunday.

In an Eastern Conference semifinal, Boston edged Detroit 66-64 as the Celtics took a 2-1 lead in their series.

Sacramento is at Dallas on Saturday for Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series. The Kings lead 2-1.

More than 35,000 fans were in the stands at the Alamodome, providing Bryant with the game conditions he thrives on.

''I love playing here with 35,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs,'' he said. ''When you make a run and you or your teammate hits one that quiets the fans, it feels great.''

In his first game after being named the NBA's Most Valuable Player, Tim Duncan struggled through a 9-for-26 shooting performance. He led the Spurs with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

''I missed a couple of layups and a bunch of wide-open shots,'' Duncan said. ''Those are the kind of shots that turn your game around. You miss those and you are in a slump automatically.''

Rookie point guard Tony Parker had 24 points for San Antonio, and reserve Malik Rose added 10.

The game was close for the first 45 minutes, with no more than six points separating the teams. But as they have done so many times in the past against the Lakers, the Spurs lost their focus at the end.

San Antonio missed shots on four straight possessions after Duncan pulled them to 81-80 with 6:28 left.

''Down the stretch we couldn't get it to go in the hole,'' said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

David Robinson, who injured his lower back late in the regular season, started at center for the Spurs after being absent for all but a few minutes of the postseason. He scored six points and collected six rebounds in 21 minutes.

The prospect of Robinson's return had been a daily drama for the Spurs, who have been having trouble guarding the 7-foot-1, 330-pound O'Neal. Robinson was somewhat effective, though he got into early foul trouble.

''I was a little rusty,'' he said. ''I was trying to get some good things to happen, but I was just glad to be out there and help the team a little bit.''

O'Neal, not a big part of the Lakers offense in the first half, became the first option in the third quarter, scoring 12 of his team's 21 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

The opposite was true for Parker, who had 20 points before the break but only one basket and two free throws afterward.

Celtics 66, Pistons 64

Jerry Stackhouse banked in a 3-pointer a split-second after the final buzzer, and Boston held on to beat visiting Detroit for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.

It was the lowest-scoring game in the NBA playoffs since the shot clock was added in 1955. The 130 combined points was far below the previous low of 142 registered three times, twice in 2000.

Paul Pierce hit two free throws with 5.9 seconds left to give Boston a 66-62 lead. But Kenny Anderson fouled Chucky Atkins while he was shooting a harmless 3-pointer; Atkins hit two free throws with 2.8 seconds left and missed the third on purpose.

The rebound bounced high off the floor, and Stackhouse grabbed it beyond the arc and put it up. The referees waved the shot off as the ball was in the air, and replays confirmed it was still in Stackhouse's hands as the red light went off behind the basket.



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