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Oh, What a Relief It Is for Spurs

May 14, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

San Antonio Spur guard Stephen Jackson kept his fist clenched Tuesday night as he walked down the hallway at SBC Center. He smashed it into the wall again and again.

Teammate Bruce Bowen got in his face.

"Hey, man," Bowen told him, "we won."

It was hard to tell.

The Spurs may have hung on to win Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers, but the reaction was a sigh rather than a shout, relief rather than revelry.

A 25-point lead had dwindled to two and maybe less.

With 1.6 seconds left on the clock and the Spurs clinging to a 96-94 lead, Robert Horry launched a shot from behind the three-point line, the kind of shot that sank the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the conference finals last season.

And don't think all of that didn't cross the minds of the Spurs.

Horry's shot went in the basket, but then the ball popped out and into the waiting arms of David Robinson.

"I thought about Sacramento," Robinson said. "I thought about the shot he hit last year. That is not the guy you want to shoot an open three-pointer at the end of the game.

"But we should not have let it get that close. That was a nail-biter. If you look up the definition of nail-biter in the dictionary, this was it."

And what was Robinson feeling as he held the ball as time expired?

"I just wanted to get off the court," he said.

As if someone might decide to have them play some more if he didn't exit immediately.

San Antonio reserve Steve Smith let out a big smile as he finally reached the sanctuary of the locker room. "You gotta love it," he said to no one in particular and everyone in general.

This wasn't a team that had moved one knockout punch away from dethroning the champion. This was a team that had hung on the ropes until the bell had sounded.

"That was w-a-a-y too close," Malik Rose said. "I thought it was good all the way. Thank God it popped out."

Admitted Jackson: "I was frightened. Robert knows how to spoil a person's season. He has done it a lot."

Guard Tony Parker had a big smile when the media army descended on him.

"Last year," Parker said, "Horry makes that shot. Maybe this is our year."

Parker made eight of 16 shots from the field, totaled 21 points and steadied the offense.

That's five more points than he totaled in Games 3 and 4.

Parker gave Coach Gregg Popovich credit for supplying the spark that ignited him.

"He has been saying that I was not playing hard enough," said the 20-year-old guard. "I was trying to show him he was wrong.

"He thought I was on vacation."

Many in the sellout crowd of 18,797 thought all the Spurs were about to go on vacation when Horry launched his potential game-winning shot.

But not this time.

This time, the Spurs were the winners. It just took a few minutes for them to really, truly believe it.

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