San Antonio 110, LA Lakers 82

May 16, 2003 at 6:54 AM
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LOS ANGELES, May 15 (UPI) -- Tim Duncan collected 37 points and 16 rebounds Thursday night, powering the San Antonio Spurs to a 110-82 win over Los Angeles that ended the Lakers' three-year reign as champions of the NBA.

San Antonio won the Western Conference semifinal series in six games and advanced to the conference finals for the second time in three years.

"Tim Duncan is a fantastic competitor, as we all know," said San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich, "but I thought in Game Five and Game Six, he was astounding in his focus. He pulled everyone along these last two games."

Lakers' Coach Phil Jackson and center Shaquille O'Neal, who sat out the last 4 1/2 minutes of the crushing defeat, both had praise for the Spurs.

"They played a great second half against us that really took the air out of the building and out of the game," Jackson said. "They left no doubt about the fact that they were the better team in the series."

"The Spurs were better," O'Neal said. "We beat them the past two years. We knew what they were capable of. The Spurs were the team this year."

The Spurs had been the last team to defeat the Lakers in the postseason, sweeping them in the semifinals in the Spurs' 1999 championship season.

Los Angeles, which needed just nine games to eliminate San Antonio in the last two postseasons, was thoroughly outplayed down the stretch. O'Neal was taken out with 4:34 remaining and the Lakers trailing, 98-76.

It was an ignominious end for a team seeking to become the first to win four straight titles since the Boston Celtics won eight in a row from 1959-66.

Duncan demonstrated why he has earned his second straight Most Valuable Player award with a virtuoso performance. He made 16 of 25 shots, setting the tone in the first quarter by making seven of eight for 15 points.

"The guys that thought maybe Tim Duncan didn't deserve the MVP have changed their minds," said San Antonio guard Emanuel Ginobili. "In the clutch of important games and you play like that, you are the best."

A 10-0 tear that featured eight points from Duncan established San Antonio's first double-digit lead at 76-64 with just over one minute left in the third quarter. Tony Parker, who finished with 27 points, went end to end for a layup and a 78-69 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Instead of Los Angeles making a last stand, San Antonio put an exclamation point on the victory with a dominant display. The Spurs scored 10 of the first 14 points in the final period, shot 60 percent in the quarter and limited the Lakers to just six baskets.

O'Neal finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds and Kobe Bryant netted 20 points for the Lakers, who did not get enough contributions from the rest of the team.

Jackson saw his NBA record of 25 straight playoff series triumphs end, suffering his first loss since his Chicago Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in six games in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. He underwent an angioplasty last Saturday, and missed Game Four. He was non-committal about his future.

"Whether I coach them or not, they'll be fine," Jackson said. "When you make correct decisions and do things correctly, your expectations are fulfilled, especially when you put the effort in. This year we couldn't do that, we couldn't make the correct steps."

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