Sunday , May , 02 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Spurs stay unbeaten in playoffs; win 16th straight overall

San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) – Tim Duncan poured in 30 points and pulled
down 11 rebounds, as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Lakers,
88-78, in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series at SBC

The Spurs, who have won 16 in a row at home dating back to the regular season,
will also host Game 2 of the best-of-seven matchup on Wednesday. Tony Parker
collected 20 points and nine assists for San Antonio, which outscored Los
Angeles 26-13 in the fourth quarter.

“There’s not a whole lot of secrets about what we do and what they do,” said
Duncan. “It’s about going out there and imposing your will.”

Manu Ginobili chipped in 11 points and six boards for the defending champion
Spurs, who remained unbeaten in the 2004 post-season (5-0) and have won 16
straight overall going back to the regular campaign.

Kobe Bryant paced Los Angeles with 31 points and also hauled in 10 rebounds.
Shaquille O’Neal contributed 19 points and 13 boards for the Lakers.

Despite the fact that Los Angeles won the Pacific Division and earned a higher
seed than the Spurs, the home-court advantage belongs to San Antonio because
of a better record during the regular season.

The teams are meeting for the fourth straight year in the playoffs. Last
season, San Antonio eliminated the Lakers, 4-2, in the conference semifinals.
However, the Lakers knocked off the Spurs 4-1 in the 2002 semifinals and swept
San Antonio in the 2001 Western finals.

The Spurs opened the fourth quarter with an 11-4 run, culminated by
consecutive baskets from Rasho Nesterovic, to grab a 73-69 advantage.

After O’Neal converted a slam dunk, the Spurs scored the next 10 points,
including six by Duncan, to stretch their lead to a commanding 83-71 with only
1:37 remaining.

“They did what they wanted to do and then late they had a big spurt in them
and we didn’t,” said Bryant. “They wanted to get into transition and run it,
and that’s what they did.”

The margin reached as many as 13 at 85-72 on a layup by Bruce Bowen with just
over a minute left.

Los Angeles used an 8-1 run in the first quarter, capped by O’Neal’s hook shot
in the lane, to claim a 12-5 lead.

San Antonio then countered with an 11-0 burst, ignited by Ginobili’s three-
pointer, to take a four-point advantage. After two free throws by Bryant,
Parker converted a layup and then nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to give
the Spurs a 21-14 lead after 12 minutes.

The Lakers cut the deficit to 27-25 on two foul shots by Karl Malone with 7
1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. Bowen then nailed a three-pointer and
Nesterovic followed with a basket to restore a seven-point lead. San Antonio
eventually carried a 41-33 advantage into the locker room.

Duncan had 15 points in the first half, while Bryant led Los Angeles in the
opening 24 minutes with 13.

The Lakers then began the third quarter with a 13-4 spurt, keyed by five
points from Bryant, to move in front 46-45.

Los Angeles later increased its advantage to 56-50 on a three-pointer by
Devean George with 4:56 remaining in the period. After San Antonio closed
within 61-58, the Lakers received a basket from Derek Fisher and two free
throws from Malone to push the lead to seven.

Parker then hit consecutive jumpers to make it a 65-62 contest in favor of Los
Angeles after 36 minutes.

Bryant scored 12 points in the third stanza, as the Lakers outscored the
Spurs, 32-21.

“We probably came out a little sloppy in the third quarter or not as
aggressive as in the first half,” Ginobili said. “In the fourth quarter we
realized our mistakes, we got more aggressive and they probably got a little

Malone ended with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Nesterovic had 10 points and six boards.

The teams have combined to win the last five NBA championships. San Antonio
captured the title in 1999 and 2003, while Los Angeles accomplished the feat
three straight years from 2000-02. The Spurs and Lakers also faced each other
in the playoffs in 1982, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1995 and 1999.