Duncan, Parker drove Spurs to win
Malone and Payton were outplayed by their younger counterparts, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, a key factor in San Antonio's 88-78 victory. Game 2 is Wednesday night in San Antonio.
"I expect a better game out of myself," Malone said Tuesday before the Lakers boarded a plane for the flight back to San Antonio.
Payton avoided reporters for the second straight day after sitting out practice because of a sore lower back and Achilles tendon.
Malone plans to get Payton back on track.
"That's something I'll do in my own way," he said. "Everything else is not important -- just go out and play the game. That's all."
Malone had 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the opener, but Duncan was much better, scoring 30 points -- 12 in the decisive fourth quarter -- and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Parker had 20 points and nine assists as the Spurs extended their winning streak to 16 games, one shy of the franchise record.
Payton shot just 1-for-8 and had trouble defending the speedy Parker. Afterward, Payton complained about not getting an opportunity to post up against the shorter Parker.
When asked whether he and Payton are on the same page, Lakers coach Phil Jackson replied, "I don't have to be on Gary's page. He has to be on our page."
As far as Payton's injuries, Jackson said, "He's shown an ability to play through that his whole career. I'm not worried about it."
Jackson knows the adjustment to the Lakers and their triangle offense has not been easy for Payton.
"He's had to change habits. Those things have become difficult," the coach said.
Payton, who turns 36 this summer, isn't nearly as quick as when he was tagged "The Glove" for his defensive skill.
"I understand his feelings because it is hard in that offense to go back at me," Parker said. "When he was in Seattle, he was always coming back at me. I can understand him being frustrated because all of the offense is for Kobe and Shaq and you don't get many touches."
Kobe Bryant (31) and Shaquille O'Neal (19) combined for 50 of the Lakers' 78 points in Game 1. The Lakers were mostly a two-man team on the offensive end last spring when they lost to the Spurs 4-2 in the conference semifinals to spoil their hopes of winning a fourth straight championship.
"We have too many players for our championship hopes to rest in my hands," Bryant said. "Do a better job on transition, we'll be OK.
"You don't win games on offense. We can go on a run offensively, but if the defense isn't carrying the load, we're not going to win."
Defense has consistently done the job for the Spurs, as it did in the fourth quarter of Game 1 when they forced 11 turnovers while outscoring the Lakers 26-13.
"They've got the type of team you can't really make a lot of mistakes against," O'Neal said. "They won a game. Basically, we beat ourselves."
Duncan, for one, believes the Lakers will do a much better job in Game 2.
"They are going to come with everything they've got," he said. "They are going to execute better, take care of the ball and do everything they are used to doing. We expect them to extend their double teams out a little more and come to them a little quicker. We are ready for it."
Slava Medvedenko remains slowed by a strained right Achilles tendon, which could frustrate Jackson's desire to lighten the load on O'Neal and Malone after they played 43 minutes each in Game 1. If Medvedenko is out, it could lead to more playing time for rookies Luke Walton and Brian Cook.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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