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NBA FINALS: LAKERS

Lakers

June 06, 2004|Dave Morgan

WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND

Lakers win series, 4-1

at Lakers 72, Houston 71

TD at Lakers 98, Houston 84

at Houston 102, Lakers 91

Lakers 92, at Houston 88, OT

at Lakers 97, Houston 78

This series was closer than it looks on paper. Jim Jackson missed an open three-point shot in the closing seconds of Game 1, Shaquille O'Neal was limited by fouls and Yao Ming to seven points in Game 2, and the Rockets won convincingly in Game 3. The series hung in the balance in Game 4, when the Lakers failed to score in the final 4:36 of regulation and then fell behind by four in overtime. But Karl Malone, who scored 30 points, and Kobe Bryant fueled a 9-1 run to end the game. For Game 5, Bryant returned after three days of hearings in his sexual assault case in Colorado, arriving at Staples Center about 25 minutes before tipoff. He scored 31 points with 10 assists as the Lakers earned a trip back to Texas for their date with destiny, otherwise known as the San Antonio Spurs.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

Lakers win series, 4-2

at San Antonio 88, Lakers 78

at San Antonio 95, Lakers 85

at Lakers 105, San Antonio 81

at Lakers 98, San Antonio 90

Lakers 74, at San Antonio 73

at Lakers 88, San Antonio 76

Not far from where Robert Horry's three-point attempt missed a year ago in the same fifth game, and with Horry on the floor for the Spurs this time, Derek Fisher caught an inbounds pass from Gary Payton, turned and launched a shot -- all within the 0.4 of a second showing on the clock. The shot went in, securing Fisher a place in NBA history, and two days later the Lakers closed out the Spurs in a showdown between the winners of the last five NBA titles. "It feels good to kind of get revenge," said Bryant, who scored 26 points in the deciding Game 6. "But there's many more obstacles to overcome." San Antonio started the series with two home victories, running its winning streak to 17 games, only to lose the last four to a suddenly -- finally? -- formidable Laker team.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Lakers win series, 4-2

Lakers 97, at Minnesota 88

at Minnesota 89, Lakers 71

at Lakers 100, Minnesota 89

at Lakers 92, Minnesota 85

at Minnesota 98, Lakers 96

at Lakers 96, Minnesota 90

Minnesota, which hadn't won a playoff series in its history, made it this far after an epic Game 7 against Sacramento in the conference semifinals. Kevin Garnett scored 14 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter in the Timberwolves' three-point victory. For their efforts, the Timberwolves got one day off before the Lakers arrived in Minneapolis. L.A., on five days' rest after beating San Antonio, snatched home-court advantage with a victory in Game 1. After the teams split four games on their home floors, the Lakers closed out the series in a rugged Game 6. With O'Neal and Bryant in foul trouble, Kareem Rush made six three-pointers, putting the Lakers in position to win their fourth NBA championship in five seasons.

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-- Dave Morgan

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