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Their Turn to Be Upset With Refs

May 13, 2003|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — Those darned officials never quite get it right, do they?

Laker Coach Phil Jackson criticized the referees after the first three games of this series, even lamenting that Shaquille O'Neal got in foul trouble in Game 3, in which the Lakers shot 40 free throws to the Spurs' 24.

That was three more than any Spur opponent shot all season ... but five fewer than the Lakers got in Game 4, when they shot 45 to the Spurs' 26 for an 85-50 advantage in the two games in Staples Center, and David Robinson fouled out in 14 minutes.

Guess who's unhappy now.

"I was handcuffed," Robinson said. "I didn't get much of a chance to play [O'Neal]."

Tim Duncan protested the foul call that sent him to the bench with 2:54 left in the third period and the Spurs up, 64-55, after which the Lakers closed the period with a 16-3 run to take the lead.

Said Duncan of the Lakers' free-throw total: "There's not much you can do with that."

Nevertheless, Coach Gregg Popovich is having none of it.

"The team that performs the best wins the game," he said Monday. "The team that's aggressive, in a wise manner, wins basketball games. Fans tend to think that way but players and coaches know what wins ball games. The refs have nothing to do with that.

"With less than a minute to go [Sunday], we could have won the game. Had our defense been up to par, I don't think we would have been in that situation."

Bruce Bowen, who guards Kobe Bryant, was having none of it, either.

"We can't say, 'The refs are doing this, the refs are doing that.' That's like [saying] 'The dog ate my homework,' " he said. "We have to play our game and understand that when we play our game, we don't put people on the free-throw line."


The Spurs shot 62 free throws to 36 for the Lakers in the first two games in San Antonio, but Bryant said the Lakers are playing differently now, showing more variety and aggressiveness.

"It takes us a little while to get adjusted to what our opponents like to do, what their rhythm is," Bryant said. "We try to lock in on them.

"What I've been doing here is moving without the basketball, and attacking them quickly. When Shaquille is on a roll down low and when Derek [Fisher] is hitting shots and everybody's actively involved on the offensive end, I don't see much they can do if I attack quickly."


Stress is an occupational hazard of coaching and, like the Lakers' Jackson, many notables, such as Chuck Daly and Hubie Brown, have been treated for heart disease.

Said Popovich: "Are you trying to scare me? You try and ignore that....

"You feel for Phil and if we haven't been in that situation, we probably will be as time goes on so it's a real perspective circumstance for him and for everybody."


Staff writer Tim Brown and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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