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Lakers put Spurs in giant hole

Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

SAN ANTONIO -- Seventeen-and-oh my! Can anybody beat these guys?

The Los Angeles Lakers, motivated by the ejection of coach Phil Jackson, outscored the San Antonio Spurs 13-5 over the final 6:11 Monday night for an 88-81 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

The Lakers won their 17th straight, ninth in the playoffs, in a rough game that put them up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. They won twice at the Alamodome, where San Antonio had been unbeaten in the playoffs and had lost just eight in the regular season.

''I think the turning point was when Phil got thrown out of the game,'' Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal said of Jackson getting two technical fouls in a five-minute span of the third quarter. ''I pulled the guys in the huddle and told them, 'Let's go, let's just play loose.' They gave us all they had.''

The Lakers, down by as many as 14 points in the first half, can complete an unexpected sweep by winning the next two at home. Game 3 is Friday night at the Staples Center.

Their playoff winning streak is the longest since 1989 when the Lakers won 11 in a row before being swept in the Finals by Detroit after Magic Johnson and Byron Scott were injured.

Can the Spurs come back?

''If we slack off and not do what we've been doing, then yes,'' O'Neal said, ''but I don't see us doing that. I see us going home and taking care of business.''

Once again, Kobe Bryant led the way, but he got plenty of help from role players to overcome Tim Duncan's career playoff-high 40 points for the Spurs.

Bryant followed his 45-point performance in Game 1 with 28 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:10 to play that put Los Angeles ahead 85-78.

The game was much tougher than the Lakers' 104-90 romp in Game 1.

''It was fun,'' Bryant said. ''We were challenged.''

Duncan grabbed 15 rebounds for the Spurs, while Antonio Daniels added 24 points, a career playoff high. Both were perfect from the foul line -- Daniels 12-for-12 and Duncan 9-for-9.

But Duncan's twin tower, David Robinson, struggled though a foul-plagued night trying to guard O'Neal. Robinson, who drew his third and fourth fouls in a one-second span in the third quarter, had seven points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.

''With the two of us in there, it puts pressure on them,'' Robinson said. ''With one of us out there, it puts a lot of pressure on Tim.''

San Antonio struggled from long range for the second straight game. The Spurs made just four of 16 3-point attempts, 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter, after going 5-for-15 in Game 1. San Antonio had shot 42 percent on 3-pointers in the first two rounds.

''We are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ''Those are shots that we take and need to make.''

O'Neal had 19 points, 11 below his playoff average, and 14 rebounds. He was just 8-of-21 from the field, but he scored to put Los Angeles up 82-78 with 1:53 to go and played tough defense all night.

Los Angeles never led until 50 seconds remained in the third quarter, and was never up by more than four in the fourth until Bryant's only 3-pointer gave the Lakers the seven-point lead.

Duncan was upset about the shots he didn't make.

''Down the stretch, they just outplayed us,'' he said. ''Their big two (Bryant and O'Neal) made shots down the stretch, and I missed a couple. I missed a couple of open looks down the stretch and that was the difference in the game.''

While Bryant was a mortal 11-for-24 shooting, he and O'Neal had big help from their supporting cast. Derek Fisher kept up his torrid playoff shooting with 16 points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range. His last one buried San Antonio for good, 88-78.

Rick Fox scored 11 points and had four steals, while Robert Horry made two crucial 3-pointers in the second half.

Fisher was the catalyst of a Lakers' defense that put the clamps on San Antonio in the second half.

''We know that there are a lot of guys on this team that can step up and score when we need to,'' Fisher said.

Duncan's inside basket with 6:18 to play gave the Spurs their last lead, 76-75. O'Neal made one of two free throws, Fox scored on a drive, and Bryant made two free throws in a 5-0 run that put Los Angeles up 80-76 with 4:54 left.

Robinson's 18-footer cut it to 80-78, and San Antonio had a chance for the lead, but Terry Porter missed a wide-open 3-pointer. O'Neal scored on a pass from Bryant to make it 82-78, Bryant followed with his 3, and Los Angeles' second Alamodome conquest was complete.

After Duncan scored 25 points in the first half, 17 in the second quarter, the Lakers collapsed on him with double- and triple-teams and limited him to 15 second-half points, most on free throws.

Jackson didn't know why referee Bob Delaney called the second technical.

''The referee asked me to move, and I asked 'Why?' and I was thrown out,'' Jackson said.

Los Angeles scored the next seven points, tying it on Fisher's 3-pointer from the corner, then took its first lead of the game, 64-63, on a 3-pointer by Horry.

The Spurs outscored Los Angeles 15-2 to start the second quarter.

O'Neal, meanwhile, made two of nine shots in the first half as San Antonio's defense clogged the middle much better than it did in Game 1.

He missed five of his first six shots, drew two early fouls and got a technical from Delaney after tangling with Malik Rose under the Lakers' basket with 6:11 left in the half. Daniels made the free throw, then hit an 8-foot running jumper to cap the outburst that put San Antonio up 37-23 with 5:44 left in the half.

Notes: Commissioner David Stern was among those in the crowd. He said before the game he is concerned by the number of high school players who have entered the draft because it's obvious many won't make it in the NBA and have ruined other opportunities to attend college. ... The Spurs' Derek Anderson, out with a separated shoulder, is to practice for the second time Tuesday and might play in Game 3. ... Players other than O'Neal and Bryant scored 20 of Los Angeles' 38 points in the first half. ... Porter finished 0-for-5 from 3-point range.



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