Thursday , Dec , 04 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

Lakers top Spurs in battle of last five title winners

San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 21 points in
the fourth quarter, helping the Los Angeles Lakers rally for a 90-86 victory
over the San Antonio Spurs at the SBC Center.

Gary Payton and Karl Malone each finished with 16 points as all five Laker
starters ended in double digits to help them overcome a 15-point deficit in
this contest. Devean George added 18 and Shaquille O’Neal had 15 points and 16
rebounds for Los Angeles, which won its seventh straight game.

Tim Duncan returned to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension and led
the Spurs with 30 points and 15 rebounds. Tony Parker added 18 points and Manu
Ginobili had 13 for San Antonio, which lost its fourth straight game for the
first time since January of 2001.

The Spurs have dropped all three encounters with the Lakers this season, after
San Antonio had won five of six against LA prior to this year. The teams have
combined to win the last five NBA Championships.

Trailing 71-62 heading into the fourth quarter, Bryant keyed a 14-4 Laker run
that put them ahead for the first time since late in the first period.
Bryant’s lay-in with 5:54 left to play made it 76-75 in favor of Los Angeles.

The game see-sawed back and forth, but the Lakers took the lead for good after
a Payton layup made it 81-80 with 4:16 remaining. Bruce Bowen then failed to
put the Spurs ahead after missing two free throws, and Bryant was fouled at
the other end and made both of his attempts from the line.

A basket by Ginobili reduced the deficit to one until Malone and O’Neal hit
back-to-back baskets to extend the margin to five with under two minutes to
play.

San Antonio was unable to muster a shot in the final two minutes that could
tie the game, allowing Los Angeles to escape with a difficult road victory.

Spurs forward Malik Rose left the game with a leg injury, but returned late
in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles improved to 15-3 this season.

The Spurs led after a tightly contest first quarter by a score of 24-21.

Bryant scored the first basket of the second quarter to pull the Lakers within
one, but Duncan and Ginobili took over from there. Duncan started the 20-6 run
with a short jumper and later hit consecutive shots with 6:31 remaining in the
half to make it 41-29. Ginobili, who had nine points during the burst, then
capped the spurt with a three-pointer to make it a 15-point contest.

The Lakers, though, closed the first half with 12 of the final 15 points, as
Payton got hot toward the end of the period. He scored six of Los Angeles’
last eight points to help them pull within 47-41 at the break.

Duncan led all scorers with 18 in the opening 24 minutes.

San Antonio scored eight of the final 10 points of the third quarter, with
Duncan netting six, to claim a nine-point advantage after 36 minutes of play.

LAL SAN