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CONFERENCE FINALS

Applying a crusher

Lakers turn up the defensive intensity and never let up, taking a 2-0 series lead to Texas

May 24, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

No second-half comebacks for the Lakers this time. None needed.

The game severely tilted in one direction, and a series did too, just in case the Lakers' resounding 101-71 victory over the San Antonio Spurs didn't drive home the point Friday at Staples Center.

The Lakers ripped through the Spurs' defense, showed they could play their fair share of it too, and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 in the Western Conference finals is Sunday in San Antonio.

It became so one-sided that reporters scrambled to find the worst playoff loss in Spurs' history -- a 47-point defeat, also to the Lakers (1986).

Lamar Odom was as active as ever, collecting 20 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in only 32 minutes. Jordan Farmar broke free of a playoff slump with 14 points, and Kobe Bryant's second-half heroics weren't needed again. Bryant finished with 22 points and five assists.

The Lakers never trailed for the third time in their last four games, a striking surge that included the last two games of the Utah series and this game against the Spurs.

Furthermore, they moved within two victories of their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2004.

The only thing that stopped the Lakers' momentum was, well, the Lakers.

"We can't get too high on ourselves," Odom said afterward, sending a reminder that the next two games are at San Antonio. "This is a team of champions."

At the same time, the Lakers were shooting almost 60% early in the fourth quarter, a stat that finished at a still-respectable 54.9% after dropping in the final few minutes.

It looked like the game would flow through the Lakers from the beginning, be it by luck -- Bryant's 19-foot bank shot from the top -- or by skill, as in Odom's one-handed dunk off an alley-oop from Luke Walton.

The score was tied at 37-37 before the Lakers ended the second quarter with a 9-0 run. They outscored the Spurs in the second half, 55-34.

The Lakers' ball movement was stellar, even crackling, reducing the league's third-best regular-season defense to a mess of confusion.

"You have to be extremely, extremely unselfish against this team," Bryant said.

The Lakers were extremely, extremely strong on defense, too.

The Spurs shot only 34.5%, making 30 of 87 attempts. The Lakers had seven blocked shots, the Spurs only one.

Two plays were all that were needed to discern the Lakers' domination on defense -- Farmar blocked Ime Udoka's shot from behind on a second-quarter Spurs fastbreak; and Odom and Vladimir Radmanovic were in perfect alignment to block Robert Horry's third-quarter shot from the baseline (Odom was credited on the play).

It only got worse for the Spurs.

Manu Ginobili, hampered by a sore left ankle, missed six of eight shots Friday after missing 10 of 13 in Game 1.

The Spurs considered holding him out of Game 2. He had seven points in 23 minutes.

"We shot horrible and we didn't play as good a defense as two days ago," Ginobili said. "So if you do the math, there were not many chances of winning."

Ginobili wasn't the only Spur who struggled.

Tim Duncan had 16 rebounds but only 12 points on six-for-14 shooting. Tony Parker had 13 points, missed nine of 15 shots and had four turnovers.

"I think they had some tired legs and I think that's what happens sometimes," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We're [playing] every other day here in this situation. Kind of crept up on them, perhaps."

The Spurs have been here before, trailing New Orleans, 2-0, in the West semifinals before rallying to win the series.

The Lakers are plenty cognizant of it, having gotten together as a team to watch the Spurs' Game 7 victory over the Hornets.

They're also aware of the Spurs' 6-0 playoff record at home -- 3-0 against Phoenix and 3-0 against New Orleans.

"We won our first two games against the Jazz and then lost two games up in Salt Lake City," said Derek Fisher, who had 11 points. "These guys are the defending champions and there isn't any reason for us to think that their time is up and that they'll just step aside for us."

The Lakers picked up an added bonus when Trevor Ariza played for the first time in four months, the game firmly out of reach when he entered with 5:53 to play.

The Staples Center crowd, already enthralled with what it had seen, grew even louder. That kind of night for the Lakers, undoubtedly.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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THE SERIES

Game 1

May 21

at Lakers 89,

San Antonio 85

--

Game 2

May 23

at Lakers 101,

San Antonio 71

--

Game 3

Sunday at

San Antonio

5:30 p.m., TNT

--

Game 4

Tuesday at

San Antonio

6 p.m., TNT

--

Game 5

Thursday at

Staples Center

6 p.m.*, TNT

--

Game 6

May 31 at

San Antonio

5:30 p.m.*, TNT

--

Game 7

June 2 at

Staples Center

6 p.m.*, TNT

--

All games Pacific

*if necessary

--

GAME 3: Lakers at San Antonio

Sunday, 5:30 p.m. PDT (TNT)

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