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Lakers Savor End of Streak

They beat Spurs for the first time since Fisher's miracle, 100-92, despite an off night by Bryant.

March 11, 2006|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — It hadn't happened since Derek Fisher and 0.4 of a second were intertwined forever in Laker lore, almost two years having come and gone since the last Laker victory in San Antonio.

It occurred again Friday, the dramatic playoff flair not quite there but the timing nearly impeccable, the Lakers beating the Spurs, convincingly, six days after topping Detroit and six weeks from a playoff appearance if this caliber of play continues.

The final score was 100-92, Lakers, and it wasn't even that close at SBC Center.

The Lakers did it by out-Spurring the Spurs, crushing them in points in the paint, 56-26, and outrebounding them, 43-35. The Lakers had 11 offensive rebounds, the Spurs only five.

Kobe Bryant had an off night -- 29 points on 11-for-29 shooting -- but Smush Parker was there with 18 points, and Lamar Odom had 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, and even Kwame Brown stepped into the fray with 10 points, eight rebounds and commendable post defense on Tim Duncan.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 12, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Lakers -- A headline in Sports on Saturday said the Lakers had beaten the San Antonio Spurs for the first time since May 13, 2004. Friday night's victory was the Lakers' first in San Antonio since then.

It was a big enough victory to make Laker owner Jerry Buss smile for the cameras.

A rare presence at road games this season, he took in the game from the second row behind the Laker bench and posed for photos afterward with dozens of fans, many of them wearing Laker colors.

"Wonderful win," he said. "When you beat San Antonio in San Antonio, that's an accomplishment."

The Lakers took over seventh place in the Western Conference by themselves, slipping ahead of New Orleans and climbing to within 1 1/2 games of Memphis for sixth.

The Lakers had been 0-12 against the Spurs and Phoenix Suns since the Shaquille O'Neal trade in July 2004, and if there was ever a time for the Sun-Spur skid to end, Friday made sense.

It was the fourth game in five days for the Spurs, who played in Phoenix the previous night and arrived home at 3 a.m. On top of it, seven of their 13 losses had been in the second game of back-to-back situations.

Make it eight of 14.

"It was huge for us," said Luke Walton, who has rediscovered part of his game, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

"It's obviously nowhere near the same as the Fisher '0.4' game, but we haven't beaten them in two years. Especially at their place, when we're fighting for playoff positions and just to make the playoffs, this is a very good win for us."

The Spurs had been 26-3 at home, but no longer, and Brown had been 23 years old, but not anymore, his 24th birthday taking place Friday as he made all four of his shots and had four offensive rebounds.

Brown filled the lane for a dunk on a fastbreak, dunked a key lob pass from Parker late in the game, and helped stifle Duncan, who had only 12 points and four rebounds.

Adding to the magnitude of the victory was the fact that it was an off night for Bryant. He did have 11 points in the fourth quarter, finally finding a semblance of his game in the waning minutes, but he understood what had happened -- his teammates carrying him instead of the other way around.

"It's very important," Bryant said. "There will be nights during the season where they don't shoot the ball particularly well and I carry us to a win. Tonight, I didn't shoot the ball well for three and a half quarters and they picked up the slack and gave me the room to do what I do late in the ballgame."

Just hanging on to win was good enough for Laker followers, who have seen the team lose eight times after being tied or leading in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

An 18-point Laker lead in the third quarter gradually shrunk to nine with 4:12 to play, but there would be no repeat of the Sacramento game in which a four-point lead in the final 22 seconds of the fourth quarter was wasted. Or the Memphis game, where another four-point lead dissolved in the final minute. Or the Boston loss, where a Paul Pierce free throw with 3.2 seconds left ended the Lakers' chance of victory.

"I thought they did a good job of milking the clock, running the clock, using that last quarter to pace the game," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said.

It helped that Walton had another well-rounded game off the bench, scoring six points in the final quarter and dunking after a pass from Bryant with the shot clock winding down, helping to halt a brief Spur rally.

In past games, and in past fourth quarters, Bryant might have taken an off-balance shot, a decent proposition on many nights. Instead, the ball was sent Walton's way.

"I think [Bryant is] starting to trust us more down the stretch," Walton said. "You've got to make those extra plays, and we've got to be able to convert them. When we play like that, we give ourselves a lot better chance of winning."

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