Sunday, April 4, 2010
Lakers fall again, this time to the surging Spurs
LOS ANGELES -- The San Antonio Spurs want to do everything they can to avoid facing the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. They took a step forward by beating the defending NBA champions on their home court.
Manu Ginobili scored 32 points, Tim Duncan added 24 and the Spurs clinched their 13th consecutive playoff berth with a 100-81 win Sunday. They moved into the seventh spot in the West, a half-game ahead of idle Portland.
"They're playoff-tested, so we want to stay away from them as long as possible," Tim Duncan said of the Lakers.
The Lakers got a season-high 32 points from Pau Gasol and 22 from Kobe Bryant, but failed to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West and heard boos from their fans.
As a result, Cleveland earned home-court advantage through the NBA finals despite losing 117-113 at Boston earlier in the day.
"They controlled the tempo," Bryant said. "We didn't make shots. There were stretches with opportunities to get back in the ballgame and we just couldn't put the ball in the hole."
Richard Jefferson added 14 points and Duncan had 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who won their third straight and 15th of 20. They've notched recent wins over four of the NBA's top teams: Cleveland, Boston, Orlando and now the Lakers.
"It was an unbelievable victory," Ginobili said. "Two months ago, it wasn't even in our wildest dreams to come here and win a game by 18 against the Lakers. But we're doing better now and we're playing hard. Our defense has really stepped up, and the difference was that we made the shots we had to make."
Already without Tony Parker because of a broken ring finger, the Spurs lost starting guard George Hill to a sprained right ankle in the second quarter. He didn't return after scoring six points.
"I'm a little worried about everything that's coming up now without George," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, referring to road games against Denver, Phoenix and Dallas. "It's going to be difficult to sustain that and have Manu play the point in all these games coming up. We'll have to figure something out."
2010 NBA Playoffs
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Lamar Odom had 13 rebounds for Los Angeles, which had its seven-game home winning streak ended two days after beating Utah.
Ginobili continued the offensive tear he's been on since the All-Star break with his 15th game of 20 or more points. After scoring a point in the third quarter, when the Spurs led by 15, he had 17 in the fourth.
Ginobili was especially lethal after the Lakers closed to 71-69 on Gasol's putback dunk of Bryant's missed jumper. He answered with a 3-pointer and then made two free throws en route to scoring another seven points and triggering a game-ending 29-12 run.
"We struggled for half of the season or a little more, but now we are playing better," Ginobili said. "Even though we're in the seventh spot and it's not going to be easy, we know now that nobody's that much better than us. So that's a big thing in your head."
San Antonio opened the second half on an 11-4 run, with Duncan scoring six in a row, for its largest lead to that point, 59-44. Gasol scored 13 in the third, when Bryant went scoreless.
The Spurs took an eight-point lead late in the second quarter, when Ginobili scored six straight before Keith Bogans capped the scoring with a 3-pointer that sent San Antonio into halftime leading 48-40.
The final minute of the half included double technicals on Ron Artest and Ginobili, and a technical on Bryant for arguing with referee Bennett Salvatore. Derek Fisher had to pull an animated Bryant away.
Artest sprinted to the sideline in disbelief at his call, the result of he and Ginobili tangling before an inbounds play. Artest then fouled Ginobili, who hit the free throws and dunked off Jefferson's steal of Bryant.
"Even though you don't like to get a T, it helps sometimes because they're trying to mess with you and get you off your game," Ginobili said. "That means that you're important."