7:30 PM ET, February 14, 2003
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Another big offensive performance by Kobe Bryant didn't keep the San Antonio Spurs from making NBA history.
"We have been having great group efforts and that is what has been winning games for us,'' Duncan said. "We are getting defense from all over and it just feels great right now.''
Bryant scored 44 points -- his eighth straight game with at least 35 -- but it wasn't enough to beat San Antonio in a matchup of two streaking teams. Bryant was 19-of-41 from the floor, more than twice the amount of shots taken by teammate Shaquille O'Neal.
"We looked like a one-man team,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I don't think he can be effective at 41 shots. I think 25 is a reasonable number. That was a little bit over the edge.''
O'Neal added 21 points but just five rebounds for the Lakers, who had their seven-game winning streak snapped and lost to the Spurs for the third time this season. He missed the first two games while recovering from foot surgery.
"This win really counts when they have Shaq,'' said Stephen Jackson, who hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth that kept the Spurs ahead by double figures. "We have a lot of guys who can score, and a lot of guys that can contribute to helping Tim. We are just rolling right now and hopefully it keeps going.''
The Spurs are 7-1 on their nine-game road trip. They opened with a loss to Minnesota and finish at Sacramento on Sunday. They won this one without center David Robinson, who is back in San Antonio for treatment of a sore right hip.
"We're trying to get things done, whoever we have here,'' Duncan said. "We've been up and down with injuries and we've just found a way to play without him.''
Bryant, who averaged 42 points during the Lakers' streak, struggled in the fourth quarter -- when the Lakers trailed by as many as 13.
He let out a groan after missing a free throw with the Lakers down by 10. Then he missed a layup and slapped his hands in frustration. Bryant missed another layup and ended up on the floor under the basket as Malik Rose scored to put the Spurs ahead 85-76.
"They were chippies. It's just about using the finger roll to get it over the lip of the rim,'' Bryant said. "Defensively, we weren't able to get a hold of their rhythm. Their spacing was excellent and they made big shots.''
Bryant started strong, scoring 24 points in the first half. But he was held to six in the third quarter with Bruce Bowen dogging his every step.
"Bruce Bowen worked him and worked every shot,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He had a lot of tough shots. I think Bruce did a heck of a job.''
It was Bryant's 11th game of 40-plus points this season. Jerry West was the last Laker to score at least 40 points 10 or more times in a season. He did it 13 times in 1969-70.
"We definitely have to have everybody more in the rhythm and next game I'll make a more conscious effort to do that,'' Bryant said. "I'm not going to panic off of one loss. They're playing excellent basketball and we lost one game. I'm not ready to jump off a bridge.''
Duncan picked up his fifth foul with 4:15 remaining and spun around in disbelief, telling the referee, "I didn't touch him.'' Devean George made both free throws to draw the Lakers within five.
But Duncan scored and Bowen hit a 3-pointer, then Tony Parker scored four straight points and the Spurs led 94-85 as Staples Center began clearing out. Duncan made 10 of 11 free throws and Parker added 24 points.
Bryant's frustration continued when O'Neal won a jump ball over Duncan only to have Bryant commit a turnover that led to Parker's basket. Duncan got fouled and made the free throw as the Spurs led 95-85 with 1:07 left.
"Kobe lost the ball a couple times trying to just come up the court and it was very costly errors for us because he was naked and they got a couple scores against us,'' Phil Jackson said.
Bryant pushed himself over the 40-point mark with a 3-pointer that drew the Lakers within eight. Then he came down the floor and made a 20-footer over Bowen for a 97-92 deficit with 24 seconds left.
The Lakers were forced to foul Parker, who made both foul shots. George tossed up an airball as their chances ran out.
"We just couldn't get a stop when we had to in the fourth quarter,'' Phil Jackson said.
Robert Horry had 15 rebounds for the Lakers.
The Spurs opened the third quarter with a 15-6 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 57-47. Jackson had five points and Duncan had four.
O'Neal and Bryant scored the Lakers' points during San Antonio's run, but the duo also was responsible for costly miscues, including consecutive turnovers by Bryant.
Bowen's fast-break dunk pushed the Spurs' lead to 66-53 with 3:23 remaining just after O'Neal returned after picking up his fourth foul.
Duncan sat down with his fourth foul as O'Neal keyed a mini-run by dunking off Bryant's miss and getting fouled, but he missed the free throw. Horry hit a 3-pointer, Derek Fisher scored and George dunked off another Bryant miss as the Lakers closed to 72-63 heading into the fourth.
The Spurs led 42-41 after a close first half in which Bryant scored more than half of the Lakers' points. O'Neal had nine points and one rebound while playing the same 21 minutes as Bryant.
After the game, O'Neal planned to cook and personally serve dinner to his new bride, Shaunie Nelson, at the Beverly Hills restaurant Avenue, which he rented out for Valentine's Day. The chef was on hand to make sure O'Neal didn't burn anything. ... C Kevin Willis started in place of Robinson.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||36-83 (.434)||40-91 (.440)|
|3PM-3PA||8-15 (.533)||4-15 (.267)|
|FTM-FTA||23-33 (.697)||11-20 (.550)|
|Fast Break Points||4||3|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||24 (0/0)||23 (0/0)|