LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Another big offensive performance by Kobe
Bryant didn't keep the San Antonio Spurs from making NBA history.
Tim Duncan had 28 points and 20 rebounds as the Spurs became the
first team to win seven consecutive games on one road trip with a
103-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
"We have been having great group efforts and that is what has
been winning games for us,'' Duncan said. "We are getting defense
from all over and it just feels great right now.''
Bryant scored 44 points -- his eighth straight game with at least
35 -- but it wasn't enough to beat San Antonio in a matchup of two
streaking teams. Bryant was 19-of-41 from the floor, more than
twice the amount of shots taken by teammate Shaquille O'Neal.
"We looked like a one-man team,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson
said. "I don't think he can be effective at 41 shots. I think 25
is a reasonable number. That was a little bit over the edge.''
O'Neal added 21 points but just five rebounds for the Lakers,
who had their seven-game winning streak snapped and lost to the
Spurs for the third time this season. He missed the first two games
while recovering from foot surgery.
"This win really counts when they have Shaq,'' said Stephen
Jackson, who hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth that kept the
Spurs ahead by double figures. "We have a lot of guys who can
score, and a lot of guys that can contribute to helping Tim. We are
just rolling right now and hopefully it keeps going.''
The Spurs are 7-1 on their nine-game road trip. They opened with
a loss to Minnesota and finish at Sacramento on Sunday. They won
this one without center David Robinson, who is back in San Antonio
for treatment of a sore right hip.
"We're trying to get things done, whoever we have here,''
Duncan said. "We've been up and down with injuries and we've just
found a way to play without him.''
Bryant, who averaged 42 points during the Lakers' streak,
struggled in the fourth quarter -- when the Lakers trailed by as
many as 13.
He let out a groan after missing a free throw with the Lakers
down by 10. Then he missed a layup and slapped his hands in
frustration. Bryant missed another layup and ended up on the floor
under the basket as Malik Rose scored to put the Spurs ahead 85-76.
"They were chippies. It's just about using the finger roll to
get it over the lip of the rim,'' Bryant said. "Defensively, we
weren't able to get a hold of their rhythm. Their spacing was
excellent and they made big shots.''
Bryant started strong, scoring 24 points in the first half. But
he was held to six in the third quarter with Bruce Bowen dogging
his every step.
"Bruce Bowen worked him and worked every shot,'' Spurs coach
Gregg Popovich said. "He had a lot of tough shots. I think Bruce
did a heck of a job.''
It was Bryant's 11th game of 40-plus points this season. Jerry
West was the last Laker to score at least 40 points 10 or more
times in a season. He did it 13 times in 1969-70.
"We definitely have to have everybody more in the rhythm and
next game I'll make a more conscious effort to do that,'' Bryant
said. "I'm not going to panic off of one loss. They're playing
excellent basketball and we lost one game. I'm not ready to jump
off a bridge.''
Duncan picked up his fifth foul with 4:15 remaining and spun
around in disbelief, telling the referee, "I didn't touch him.''
Devean George made both free throws to draw the Lakers within five.
But Duncan scored and Bowen hit a 3-pointer, then Tony Parker
scored four straight points and the Spurs led 94-85 as Staples
Center began clearing out. Duncan made 10 of 11 free throws and
Parker added 24 points.
Bryant's frustration continued when O'Neal won a jump ball over
Duncan only to have Bryant commit a turnover that led to Parker's
basket. Duncan got fouled and made the free throw as the Spurs led
95-85 with 1:07 left.
"Kobe lost the ball a couple times trying to just come up the
court and it was very costly errors for us because he was naked and
they got a couple scores against us,'' Phil Jackson said.
Bryant pushed himself over the 40-point mark with a 3-pointer
that drew the Lakers within eight. Then he came down the floor and
made a 20-footer over Bowen for a 97-92 deficit with 24 seconds
The Lakers were forced to foul Parker, who made both foul shots.
George tossed up an airball as their chances ran out.
"We just couldn't get a stop when we had to in the fourth
quarter,'' Phil Jackson said.
Robert Horry had 15 rebounds for the Lakers.
The Spurs opened the third quarter with a 15-6 run to take their
first double-digit lead of the game, 57-47. Jackson had five points
and Duncan had four.
O'Neal and Bryant scored the Lakers' points during San Antonio's
run, but the duo also was responsible for costly miscues, including
consecutive turnovers by Bryant.
Bowen's fast-break dunk pushed the Spurs' lead to 66-53 with
3:23 remaining just after O'Neal returned after picking up his
Duncan sat down with his fourth foul as O'Neal keyed a mini-run
by dunking off Bryant's miss and getting fouled, but he missed the
free throw. Horry hit a 3-pointer, Derek Fisher scored and George
dunked off another Bryant miss as the Lakers closed to 72-63
heading into the fourth.
The Spurs led 42-41 after a close first half in which Bryant
scored more than half of the Lakers' points. O'Neal had nine points
and one rebound while playing the same 21 minutes as Bryant.
After the game, O'Neal planned to cook and personally serve
dinner to his new bride, Shaunie Nelson, at the Beverly Hills
restaurant Avenue, which he rented out for Valentine's Day. The
chef was on hand to make sure O'Neal didn't burn anything. ... C
Kevin Willis started in place of Robinson.
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