Lakers on the brink

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

SAN ANTONIO Open from behind the 3-point line in the closing seconds, Robert Horry let sail what looked like another incredible game-winning shot.

Only this time, it went in and out. And now the Los Angeles Lakers are one loss from the end of their run of three straight championships.

David Robinson grabbed the final rebound with 3 seconds left and the San Antonio Spurs pulled out a 96-94 victory Tuesday night in Game 5 of their second-round series.

The Spurs never trailed en route to taking a 3-2 series lead. But had Horry's shot gone in, San Antonio would've blown a 25-point lead one game after letting a 16-point lead slip away.

When we figure out how to stop someone in the fourth quarter, or score in the fourth quarter, we're going to be dangerous,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson returned three days after undergoing a heart procedure, only to see his team play lethargically for three quarters. Now the Lakers must win the next two games, or their postseason will end the same way it did the last time they failed to win it all going down to San Antonio in the conference semifinals. That was in 1999, when the Spurs won the title.

Game 6 is Thursday night in Los Angeles, with a possible Game 7 in San Antonio on Saturday. The Lakers are 0-5 this season at the Spurs' new home, the SBC Center.

We're a tough team to put out,'' said Kobe Bryant, who led Los Angeles with 36 points. It has something to do with luck, something to do with our grit, our fight. Game 6, we're going to give it our all.''

The Lakers have three losses in a series for only the third time during their championship run. They trailed Sacramento 3-2 last season and were tied at 3 against Portland in the 2000 conference finals.

Against the Kings, Horry won Game 4 with a 3-pointer. Many of the 18,797 in the arena had flashbacks to that shot when he put up this one from the left side with no defender in his way.

When he shot it, I was thinking about the Sacramento shot,'' Robinson said. I was thinking, Please don't go in.'''

Bryant was ready to celebrate when Horry's shot went up. It wound up being his sixth 3-point miss of the game and dropped him to 0-for-15 behind the arc this series.

It looked like perfect arc, good rotation. It looked like it was going in. It rattled around and came out,'' Bryant said. He's made so many before tonight. If he has another opportunity in the next game, I'll give it to him again.''

Although Shaquille O'Neal had the three-point play that got Los Angeles within one with 19.7 seconds left, he finished with only 20 points and 12 rebounds.

His play was sluggish, and he wasn't on court for the first half of the fourth quarter. Jackson said the comeback might not have started if he had been.

We needed active defense and we needed aggressive play out there. Shaquille was not active tonight he didn't move well defensively, he didn't get back on defense,'' Jackson said. It hurt us a little bit.''

Mavericks 112, Kings 93

DALLAS Raja Bell provided a big boost for the suddenly re-energized Mavericks, outshooting the Kings in the game-turning third quarter. Bell had just 13 points, but nine in the decisive period as Dallas took a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.

Bell, making his second straight start for the injured Adrian Griffin (sprained right ankle) had four baskets in the third quarter. That was one more than Sacramento managed while being outscored 29-10 in the period.

Steve Nash, held to just six points in the Game 4 loss, scored 25 points. He was just 5-of-12 from the field, but hit 15 of 16 free throws. All five starters, plus Nick Van Exel, scored in double figures for Dallas.

Dirk Nowitzki has 16 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, falling just short of the first triple-double in Dallas postseason history.

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