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Tuesday, May 13
Updated: May 13, 10:44 PM ET
 
Lakers almost win Game 5 in Jackson's return

Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- The Los Angeles Lakers almost pulled off a great comeback to mark coach Phil Jackson's return to the bench.

The Lakers trailed by 25 points late in the third quarter before trimming the Spurs' lead to 95-94 on a three-point play by Shaquille O'Neal with 19.7 seconds remaining Tuesday night. But San Antonio managed to hold on for a 96-94 victory and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Sexy as ever. He looks rejuvenated, refreshed, ready to go.
Kobe Bryant on Lakers coach Phil Jackson

The game marked the return of Jackson to the Lakers bench after he underwent an angioplasty over the weekend in Los Angeles. The coach was recuperating at home during his team's come-from-behind 99-95 victory at the Staples Center on Sunday .

"I felt great -- I feel good,'' Jackson said after Tuesday's game.

But how did he feel after Robert Horry's 3-point attempt rattled in and out with 3.6 seconds remaining to preserve San Antonio's win?

"Rob was the guy that was open -- he was the right guy,'' he said. "Every one of us thought that shot was down, and it was, and it came back out. That ruined a night in which we made a great comeback.''

Jackson said he gave some thought to keeping Stanislav Medvedenko (13 points on 5-for-6 shooting) on the court, but decided to go with Horry's experience and history of making clutch baskets. Never mind that Horry was 3-for-9 from the floor, and 0-for-5 on 3-pointers up to that point of the game.

"The odds are you go with guys that have taken you home, and this is the guy that's made some big winning shots for us,'' he said.

Jackson, 57, was feeling some discomfort from his angioplasty, but he was strong enough to make the trip to San Antonio. He said the only lingering effect from the procedure is the reaction to antibiotics that have caused some swelling and redness from his eyes to his torso.

Fans at the SBC Center had no audible reaction to Jackson's presence -- they were too busy heaping the boos on Los Angeles center Shaquille O'Neal.

And when the Lakers fell behind 47-26 midway through the second quarter, Jackson remained seated in his chair, occasionally gesturing to one of his assistants. When pacing had to be done on the sideline, assistant Jim Cleamons did it.

Jackson's bid to become the first NBA coach to win 10 championships became secondary Saturday when he underwent a procedure to open a heart artery that was more than 90 percent blocked.

He was released from the hospital Sunday morning and watched the Lakers' win in Game 4 on TV from home. He rejoined the team Monday.

Doctors have said he can do everything but work out. He was able to stand on the court and pass the ball to shooters during a drill Tuesday.

"Sexy as ever,'' Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "He looks rejuvenated, refreshed, ready to go.''

Jackson was weakened by low energy and chest pains for nearly a month before seeing a doctor last week. He had felt so worn out he was considering not returning for the final season of a five-year, $30 million contract.

Bryant said the scare may have "put in perspective for him how much he enjoys to be around the game.'' Jackson said he already knew.

"I have a sign up that says, 'Basketball isn't just a game. It's more important than that,''' Jackson said before the game. "The reality is, it is just a game. We're here providing entertainment and it's wonderful to watch. But it's important to realize that it's just a game.''

Jackson guided the Chicago Bulls to six championships during the 1990s and the Lakers to titles in each of his three full seasons, matching the nine won by former Boston coach Red Auerbach.

The Lakers are trying to become the first team with four straight championships since Auerbach's Celtics ended a run of eight in a row in 1966.
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