- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001


SAN ANTONIO The San Antonio Spurs said they learned from their mistakes in their Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last night it didn't look like it.

The Lakers may have buried the top-seeded Spurs last night, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals with an 88-81 victory, their 17th in a row.

Last night, the Spurs more than helped the Lakers continue that streak. San Antonio made just seven field goals in the second half, including three in the final quarter.

"I think it's clear that our defense was the difference in the game," Los Angeles center Shaquille O'Neal said.

Two games away from the finals, the defending champions rallied from a 14-point deficit in the first half and withstood the ejection of coach Phil Jackson late in the third quarter.

Game 3 is Friday in Los Angeles.

The Lakers' streak of nine victories to start the playoffs is two shy of the record, which was set by the Lakers in 1989.

"I'm not looking at any streaks or anything like that," O'Neal said. "We're not looking at the streak. We just know that if we come and play our game we're going to be very hard to beat."

The Lakers salted the game away when Kobe Bryant, left unguarded, drilled a 24-footer from above the top of the key to give the Lakers an 85-78 advantage with 1:10 left in the game.

Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points and six assists. O'Neal struggled offensively, making just eight of 21 shots for 19 points and finishing with 14 rebounds. Derek Fisher, 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line, added 16 points.

The Spurs, now faced with the seemingly impossible task of bouncing back from two games down, were led by Tim Duncan's 40 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. Antonio Daniels, the only other Spur to finish in double digits in scoring, had 24.

David Robinson, hampered with foul problems, added just seven points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.

Nonetheless, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said his team played Bryant and O'Neal as well as possible but was hurt by an inability to score in the second half.

"Sometimes it's a simple game where you just put the ball in the hole, and other times it's not that simple," Popovich said. "Tonight we did a lot of things well, but they played us very tight and made it almost impossible to score, especially when we needed baskets badly."

After dropping the first game of the series 104-90 on Saturday, the Spurs claimed they beat themselves. Bryant went for 45 points most of them on layups in that game, and the Spurs accepted responsibility for that and promised not to let it happen again.

Duncan posted 28 points, 14 rebounds and blocked five shots in Game 1, but some of his teammates were critical of his performance, saying many of those stats came late in the game.

Last night, though, Duncan wasted no time getting off to a good start. Going to the basket with authority, Duncan went for eight points in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Davis, who absorbed much of Bryant's punishment in Game 1, entered Game 2 with a clear head. He scored 10 points in the quarter, combining with Duncan to score 18 of the Spurs' first 20 points.

The Lakers made 55.5 percent of their shots in the first quarter, but their offense seemed a bit tentative. Bryant got off to a nice start with eight points, but O'Neal, surrounded by Spurs every time he touched the ball, struggled on 1-for-5 shooting.

Duncan connected on eight of 10 shots in the second quarter, and by halftime Duncan had posted the type of stats (25 points, eight rebounds and four blocks) that earn players All-Star recognition. Duncan led the Spurs on a 15-4 run that allowed them to build a 37-23 lead.

O'Neal never got untracked in the first half, but the Lakers played well enough behind Bryant's 13 points to trail by just 46-38 at halftime.

The Lakers wasted no time cutting into the Spurs' lead early in the third with a 9-3 run.

However, the Spurs became re-energized when Jackson was hit with his first technical foul with 8:44 left in the quarter. San Antonio ran off eight straight points and took a 57-47 lead on a 3-pointer by Danny Ferry with a little more than six minutes left in the quarter.

Moments later, with 3:59 left in the third, Jackson was whistled for his second technical foul for walking on the court during a stoppage of play and was ejected by referee Bob Delaney.

Jackson, clearly upset by the call, took his time walking off the court to the locker room, glowering at Delaney as he left the Alamodome while being taunted by the crowd of 36,574.

The second ejection did the opposite of the first, firing up the Lakers. With 1:33 left in the third reserve forward Robert Horry's 3 gave the Lakers their first lead of the game at 64-63.

With Duncan and Daniels carrying most of the load for the Spurs, San Antonio managed to stay right with the Lakers despite opening the fourth quarter without a field goal until Duncan hit a scoop shot in the lane midway through that gave the Spurs a 76-75 lead.

The Lakers went ahead to stay 78-76 on Rick Fox's layup with 5:39 left to play.

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