Clutch-shooting Kobe saves Lakers' day

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2002

SAN ANTONIO -- Kobe Bryant says he loves playing in San Antonio, and his second straight fourth-quarter rescue job was proof.

Bryant wasn't having much of a game Sunday after three periods -- 7-for-21 shooting, 16 points -- but he came to life in the fourth.

Scoring 12 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers and a go-ahead putback with five seconds remaining, Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to a come-from-behind 87-85 victory over the Spurs.

Two days earlier, Bryant scored 11 in the fourth and the Lakers also erased a late deficit to come away with the win.

By sweeping San Antonio at the Alamodome, Los Angeles now holds a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is at the Staples Center on Tuesday.

When asked about his late heroics, Bryant smiled.

''I've dreamed of these situations countless times as a kid, and I still dream of them today,'' he said.

As important as Bryant's offense was, the Lakers' defense kept the Spurs from scoring a field goal for nearly the final seven minutes.

San Antonio managed only three free throws by Tim Duncan after Bruce Bowen's 3-pointer put the Spurs up 82-72 with 6:57 left.

''We had five or six shots that were either ill-advised or not shot with confidence,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

The Spurs ended the game in inept fashion as Terry Porter fell down after receiving an inbounds pass with 3.2 seconds left, then got the ball to Duncan for a desperation 20-footer that wasn't even close to the basket.

Duncan, who led all scorers with 30 points on 9-for-15 shooting, grabbed his jersey and covered his head with it immediately after the final buzzer sounded.

He said afterward that the Lakers sagged on him defensively, and that he gave up the ball during the game in order to get the best shot.

''I tried to be patient, tried to find open people,'' he said somberly. ''I just should have been more selfish.''

The Lakers have now won a record 11 straight playoff games on the road.

Shaquille O'Neal added 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Robert Horry contributed 13 points.

But one of the most compelling stories of this game, as it was in their two other losses, was the Spurs' offensive collapse down the stretch.

Duncan followed Bowen's 3-pointer with a pair of free throws to make it 84-74 with 6:15 left. San Antonio then came up empty on six straight trips down the floor, while the Lakers worked their way back from the foul line, making five of six in 51 seconds.

Bryant then hit consecutive 3-pointers, sandwiched around a free throw by Duncan, to tie the game at 85 with 2:05 remaining. Both teams fell short in their next two possessions, and Duncan was called for an offensive foul with 46 seconds remaining.

Robert Horry missed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left, and O'Neal got the rebound. Bryant isolated Bowen on a clear-out play, but then dribbled the ball off his own foot.

Derek Fisher retrieved the ball at midcourt, drove and missed with a 12-footer. Bryant came running down the lane and reached high for the rebound, flipping it in for the winning basket.

Popovich praised Bryant's intensity, saying ''he has an uncommon will to win. He has the exact same will to win that Michael (Jordan) had.''

Laker forward Samaki Walker said the late-game zeal permeates the team.

''We came out a lot more aggressive,'' said Walker, who had eight points and six rebounds. ''In the fourth quarter, you need a sense of urgency. We tend to kick it up a notch.''

While Duncan led all scorers, only three of his points came in the fourth quarter. Tony Parker added 15 and David Robinson 12. Duncan and Robinson each had 11 boards.

With the score tied at 10, O'Neal hit a jumper and Horry back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lakers an 18-12 lead, their largest advantage in the half. Los Angeles made eight of its first 11 shots from the floor.

San Antonio then went on a 9-1 run capped by a tip-in by Robinson to go up 21-19, but Los Angeles, which missed six straight attempts, came back with three baskets in the final two minutes of the period for a 25-25 tie.

Duncan's 12 points in the third helped the Spurs build the margin up to 10 late in the quarter, 73-63.

O'Neal, who scored nine in the period, was called for a flagrant foul with 1:21 remaining in the third when he hammered Antonio Daniels going baseline to the basket. It was his fourth personal, and he went to the bench until 9:34 of the final quarter.

Notes: Los Angeles holds a 23-11 advantage in postseason games against San Antonio. ... This may have been San Antonio's last game in the Alamodome, where the team has played since the 1993-94 season. The Spurs are scheduled to move into the SBC Center, under construction a mile from the dome, for the 2002-03 campaign.



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