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Spurs refuse to fold against late Lakers' charge

5/6/2003

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- When the San Antonio Spurs let a double-digit
lead dwindle to one point, Monday night's game against the Los
Angeles Lakers began to look like a throwback to 2002.

But maybe a year does make a difference.

The Spurs took advantage of a sudden size advantage after Lakers
center Shaquille O'Neal fouled out with 3:26 left to post an 87-82
victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in San
Antonio.

"It was good to get this one, but we still have a mountain to
climb,'' said Spurs center David Robinson, who had 14 points and 11
rebounds. "They're the defending champs and they're not going to
give up that easy.''

Tim Duncan, who received his MVP trophy before the game, had 28
points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Spurs, while
rookie Manu Ginobili had 15 points, including key 3-pointers and
a pair of steals in the fourth quarter.

Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth,
including back-to-back 3-pointers to trim the Spurs' lead to 85-82
with 1:08 left.

Those were the last baskets of the game, as the scoring ended
with a free throw by Tony Parker after a technical foul against
Robert Horry and a free throw by Robinson with 9.9 seconds left.

"The key to the ballgame was (San Antonio) getting to the
free-throw line,'' said Bryant, whose team had only 12 fouls shots
compared to the Spurs' 35. "You can go to the refs and plead your
case, but you just have to play through it.''

The win was San Antonio's fifth straight over the Lakers, which
needed a total of nine games to eliminate the Spurs in each of the
last two postseasons.

O'Neal picked up three fouls in little more than a minute, his
sixth coming when he went over Robinson's back while trying to
rebound his own miss. He finished with 24 points and 21 rebounds.

"We wanted to come down here and get two,'' O'Neal said. "Now
we can just get one but we can still take the home-court
advantage.''

San Antonio went up 64-54 on a jumper by Speedy Claxton with
10:41 left. Then the Lakers went on a 12-3 run to close the gap to
67-66 on an 8-foot jumper by O'Neal over Robinson.

The Spurs got the lead back to 79-71 on a pair of free throws by
Robinson after O'Neal's sixth foul.

Derek Fisher started the final burst for Los Angeles with a
3-pointer before Bryant hit his two 3-pointers from almost the same
spot on the right wing.

Neither team shot well in the first half, which ended with the
Spurs leading 38-35 on a buzzer-beating, 40-foot heave by
40-year-old Kevin Willis.

San Antonio extended the lead to as many as 11 points late in
the third quarter when Ginobili hit his second 3-pointer of the
period with 1:52 left.

O'Neal kept getting the ball in close early but Robinson bodied
up on him with some success despite the 70-pound weight difference.
O'Neal was 5-of-12 from the field in the first half, with all but
one of his baskets coming on a dunk or layup.

Bryant struggled offensively in the half, making only six of his
19 field goal attempts.

Duncan's putback of a missed layup by Claxton gave San Antonio
its largest lead of the half, 30-22 with 5:45 left.

But Bryant answered with a 3-pointer from the wing and then
added a three-point play to key a Lakers rally that was capped by a
putback dunk by O'Neal that tied the game at 35 with 36 seconds
remaining.

Rose grabbed the rebound on a missed 14-footer by Bryant with
4.1 seconds in the half and threw an outlet pass to a streaking
Willis, who let go of his shot just over the midcourt line.

Game notes
Before the game, NBA commissioner David Stern formally
presented Duncan with the league's MVP trophy, which he won for a
second straight season. ... The Lakers didn't come out to the court
until after the national anthem. ... After making 21 of his 34
3-point attempts in the Minnesota series, Fisher opened against the
Spurs by going 2-for-3 behind the arc. ... O'Neal was close to a
double-double in the first quarter with 10 points and eight
rebounds. ... Parker's only assist came at 2:35 of the third
quarter on a feed to Duncan for a layup. ... Devean George of the
Lakers was helped off the court early in the final period after he
sprained his left ankle after getting tangled up with Ginobili
under the Spurs basket. X-rays were negative.