Bryant, George give Lakers huge lift

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Trying to sum up what transpired on a night
of desperation for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant referenced a
recent Jack Nicholson movie and an old basketball moment he's only
seen on film.

The three-time defending champions, a proud team facing the
closest thing to a must-win situation, defeated San Antonio 110-95
Friday night to cut the Spurs' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven
second-round series.

From Nicholson screaming at the officials to Devean George doing
his best Willis Reed impersonation, it was a night when the Lakers
showed the focus and determination that has made them such a great
playoff team for the past three years.

The night included the stunning sight of Nicholson stepping onto
the court to scream at one of the referees, but only after another
stunner preceded it -- the unexpected return of George to the
starting lineup four days after he severely sprained his left

"Willis Reed-like,'' Bryant said when asked about George's
effort. "Devean came in and played extremely well with a lot of
heart. Hopefully this can be a turning point in his career from a
confidence standpoint.''

Just as Reed did for the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the NBA
Finals 33 years ago against the Lakers, George scored the game's
first four points on two jump shots.

George finished with a career playoff-high 13 points as the
Lakers led all the way.

Bryant displayed his usual offensive brilliance, scoring 10 of
his 39 points in the first 1:36 of the fourth quarter to extend an
81-67 lead to 91-69.

Shaquille O'Neal had 21 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists;
Derek Fisher scored 14 and Robert Horry had 13 points and 12
rebounds for the Lakers.

Wearing his ever-present dark sunglasses while sitting in his
usual courtside seat, Nicholson stood and screamed at official Mark
Wunderlich in the second quarter shortly after O'Neal was called
for his third foul.

"Thank Jack for supporting us. He's a big basketball fan,''
O'Neal said. "He was good for us tonight.''

Public address announcer Lawrence Tantor said that Ron
Garretson, another official, came to the scorer's table and told
the stat crew to get security ready if anything more happened.

"I pay a lot of money for this seat,'' Nicholson said at
halftime. "This is the NBA, you can't tell me to sit down.''

Nicholson was much more calm in the third quarter, which ended
with all five Lakers starters in double figures -- a far different
circumstance than in the first two games when Bryant and O'Neal
provided most of the offense.

Bryant brought up "Anger Management,'' Nicholson's latest film,
when asked about the actor's antics.

"I liked it. It was entertaining,'' Bryant said. "The San
Antonio Spurs liked it, too. It was a crazy moment.''

George, who replaced Rick Fox in the starting lineup during the
opening-round series against Minnesota after Fox went down with a
torn tendon in his left foot, was missed in Game 2 when the ankle
injury kept him on the bench.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said George came into his office about
25 minutes before the game and said he was OK to play.

"When I first got hurt, I wanted to cut my ankle off. It's a
miracle how my ankle has recovered in four days, but I'm nowhere
near 100 percent yet, George said.''

Reed had to come out of his game because of an injured hip, but
the Knicks rolled to a convincing victory in the 1970 finals.
George was able to play on, scoring nine points in the first nine
minutes as the Lakers took a 29-12 lead.

"I've seen it on TV, but you can't compare what I did tonight --
I only scored 13 points,'' George said.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Malik
Rose added 15 points. Bruce Bowen, who scored 27 in San Antonio's
114-95 runaway victory in Game 2, was held to three points,
shooting 1-of-7.

Rookie Manu Ginobili, a key factor in the first two games, had
eight points, no rebounds and no assists.

"We played as if we thought somebody was going to give
something to us,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Game 4 in the second-round playoff series will be played Sunday
at Staples Center, with Game 5 Tuesday night in San Antonio.

No NBA team has come back to win a best-of-seven series after
losing the first three games, and the Lakers had no interest in
trying to become the first.

They now will try to become the eighth team to rally to win a
series after losing the first two games, the last being the Houston Rockets in 1995 against Phoenix.

O'Neal, who fouled out of Game 1, picked up his third foul with
5:12 left before halftime to join George on the bench.

Surprisingly, their lead only grew as those two watched.

With Mark Madsen providing a spark, the Lakers outscored the
Spurs 11-4 to finish the half for a 50-36 lead. The Spurs weren't
closer than 10 points after that.

"They jumped on us early,'' Duncan said. "They were great
tonight. Devean George gave them a big boost early. They sustained
it all the way through.''

Game notes
The Lakers are the fourth Jackson-coached team to fall
behind 2-0 in a seven-game series. One of the previous three
rallied to win -- the Chicago Bulls in 1993, winning four straight
after losing the first two in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
... Prep star LeBron James, expected to be the No. 1 selection in
next month's NBA draft, attended the game. ... The Lakers have won
13 straight playoff series since Phil Jackson became their coach in
1999, and Jackson-coached teams have won 25 consecutive playoff


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