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Duncan, Parker shoot down defending champs

5/17/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant left the court in tears as the
three-year championship reign of the Los Angeles Lakers came to a decisive end.

"I hate this feeling, I don't ever want to feel it again,''
Bryant said Thursday night after a 110-82 loss to the San Antonio
Spurs.

The Spurs, the last team other than Los Angeles to win an NBA
title, had been ousted by the Lakers in each of the past two
seasons.

"We've been put down by these guys the last couple of years,''
Tim Duncan said after getting 37 points and 16 rebounds to lead the
wipeout. "More than ending their reign, that felt a lot better --
ending their season and going on.''

Tony Parker, who turns 21 Saturday, added 27 points for the
Spurs, who scored 44 of the game's final 62 points.

The Lakers were the league's best in 2000, '01 and '02 -- but
they won't join the Boston Celtics as the only NBA teams to win
more than three straight championships. The Celtics won eight
straight from 1959-66.

The Lakers had won 13 straight playoff series under coach Phil
Jackson, and were 4-0 under Jackson when facing elimination.

In this one, though, they were tired and beat-up -- and out of
contention by midway through the fourth quarter.

The last team to eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs was San
Antonio, which swept them in the 1999 conference semifinals en
route to its only championship. The Lakers hired Jackson shortly
thereafter.

The Lakers swept the Spurs in the 2001 conference finals,
beating them by 39 and 29 points in the last two games. And the
Lakers eliminated the Spurs in five games in the conference
semifinals last year.

Jackson-coached teams had won a record 25 consecutive playoff
series dating to 1996, and his nine titles are tied for the most in
NBA history with former Boston coach Red Auerbach.

There won't be a 10th -- at least not until next year.

"They left no doubt about the fact that they were the better
team in this series,'' said Jackson, who underwent an angioplasty
to unblock an artery last Saturday. "We're severely disappointed
we couldn't make a run for the championship.

"We've had a great run, we've had great play. We've gotten a
little bit older, we had some injuries, we had a tough year.''

The Lakers overcame an 11-19 start to finish 50-32 and were
seeded fifth in the West. The Spurs (60-22) have homecourt
advantage throughout the playoffs.

"We finally played the defense in the second half that got us
to this point,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Regarding the Lakers, Popovich said: "I've been amazed at what
they've done. They've been great, they are great.''

Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers with 31 points and 10 rebounds.
He was removed with 4:34 remaining and the Spurs leading 98-76.

"It's very, very disappointing,'' O'Neal said. "We've been
celebrating the last three years, and we would have liked to have
gotten it this year. But it's been an unusual year. It was kind of
a different team and a different feel out there.

"We had an unbelievable run. Ever since Phil came, we've been
enjoying nothing but success, and this is the first time we're not
feeling success.''

Bryant added 20 points and didn't take the loss well. Derek
Fisher also left the court in tears.

"It's just tough to lose, man. We haven't experienced this
feeling in three years. They executed extremely well. That's an
excellent ballclub over there,'' Bryant said.

During a timeout with 2:26 left, the Staples Center crowd stood
and applauded the Lakers, who trailed by 25 points at that point.

Duncan, who finished 16-for-25 from the field, scored the first
four points of the fourth quarter to give the Spurs an 82-69 lead.
A basket by Manu Ginobili made it 84-70 with 10:07 remaining.

Ginobili's 3-pointer with 8:09 remaining made it 91-74, and the
Lakers were through.

"We didn't want to take it to seven with these guys,'' Duncan
said. "We did not want to let up at all. We just wanted to play it
all the way through to the end.''

Perhaps that's because of what happened in Game 5, when the
Spurs blew almost all of a 25-point lead before holding on for a
96-94 victory.

"This'll really sound crazy; what happened was the best
medicine yet,'' Popovich said before the game. "We won by the skin
of our teeth. I think our players are coming in here with some
appropriate fear.''

The Spurs advanced to the Western Conference finals to face
Dallas or Sacramento. The series begins Monday night.

"It matters not,'' said David Robinson, playing his final
season. "We're just excited to be moving to that next level.''

San Antonio led by only two points after a basket by O'Neal with
4:43 left in the third quarter, but Duncan scored eight points in a
10-0 run that made it 76-64, and it was 78-69 entering the final
period.

Duncan and Parker scored the last 20 points of the third period
and the first four of the fourth.

O'Neal fouled Duncan twice in a span of 66 seconds, giving the
Lakers' big man four fouls and a seat on the bench with three
minutes remaining in the third period. That was the beginning of
the end.

Game notes
San Antonio outrebounded Los Angeles 44-32 and had only 10
turnovers to 13 for the Lakers. ... O'Neal and Bryant combined for
51 points -- the supporting cast scored only 31 -- with Slava
Medvedenko getting 12. ... Shaken by the death of former teammate
Dave DeBusschere from a heart attack Wednesday, Jackson cut his
media session short. "It was just a day that was a reflective day
for me,'' he said. "To suddenly have a former teammate who's
barely five years older than me have a heart attack on a Manhattan
street was shocking. We anticipated he was the horse.''

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