Spurs file protest, say clock was 'late'

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tim Duncan threw the ball up, fell down and

heard the cheers. From his hands and knees, he looked to the San

Antonio bench with wide eyes, and asked, "Did it go in?" Told that

it did, he ran to the sideline and was mobbed by teammates.

Only it wasn't over yet.

Derek Fisher made his own spectacular buzzer-beater, swishing an

18-foot jumper off an inbounds pass with 0.4 seconds left that gave

the Los Angeles Lakers a 74-73 victory Thursday night for a 3-2

lead in their second-round series.

The Spurs filed a protest after the game, claiming the clock did

not start quickly enough after Fisher caught it. One of the three

officials triggers the start with a wireless device on his belt. A

neutral scorekeeper does, too, as a backup.

"I think it definitely started late," San Antonio coach Gregg

Popovich said.

Pending an improbable reversal, the Lakers head home for Game 6

Saturday night having won three straight.

San Antonio, which had a 17-game winning streak ended in Game 3,

had its 17-game home winning streak snapped by this loss. The Spurs

also are facing elimination, something that didn't happen during

championship runs last year and in 1999.

They thought they'd avoided it again on Duncan's shot, an

off-balance 20-footer while falling to his left, his second amazing

basket from nearly the same spot in the final few minutes. All that

remained was defending one more play.

After three timeouts, Gary Payton was ready to pass to Shaquille

O'Neal or Kobe Bryant. The Spurs had them covered, leaving Fisher

"extremely open," he said. He caught the ball, sank the shot over

Manu Ginobili, then ran off the court in celebration.

"I just wanted to get out of there and not give them an

opportunity to think that we didn't believe it went in," Fisher


Knowing the play had to withstand a video review to determine

whether he let go in time, Fisher stopped in the tunnel and watched

a television with paramedics to see what officials would decide.

Before they even signaled that it was good, Bryant -- who was

close enough to overhear the referees' discussion -- smiled and

pumped his fist.

Once the ruling was announced, a Spurs assistant slammed his

clipboard on the scorer's table. Stunned fans came out of their

silence with boos, especially when a replay showed how close it


"One lucky shot deserves another," O'Neal said.

The emotional outpouring from both sides was not only because of

the dramatic finish, but also due to the importance of this fifth


The winner of Game 5 in a best-of-seven series tied at 2 has

gone on to win 96 of the previous 115. The 2002 Lakers were the

last to buck that trend, against Sacramento. The 2003 Lakers

followed it, getting ousted by San Antonio in six games.

Last year's Game 5 also came down to a final shot. Robert Horry,

now with San Antonio but then with Los Angeles, missed it and the

Spurs won despite nearly blowing a huge, late lead.

This time, it was the Lakers who won despite blowing a huge,

late lead.

Los Angeles was up by 16 with 3:59 left in the third quarter,

but scored only 13 points the rest of the game.

"Our guys never gave up and gave us an opportunity to win the

game," Duncan said. "That energy is what we're going to need

going to L.A."

A 26-7 run put San Antonio up by three with 2:14 left. The first

go-ahead basket came when Duncan banked it in from the top of the

key, double-clutching as O'Neal nearly swatted his first try.

Baskets by O'Neal and Bryant put the Lakers back up 72-71 with

11.9 seconds left, setting up Duncan's near winner over O'Neal that

made it 73-72.

"I couldn't believe it went in, honestly," Duncan said. "They

played the dribble-handoff great and I just had to take a shot, let

it go as high as I could, knowing that Shaq was there."

The Lakers' final play was designed to be a lob to O'Neal or a

curl to Bryant. Two defenders followed Bryant as he ran toward

Payton and Fisher, who had been setting a screen for Bryant, popped

free from the foul line by taking two steps toward Payton.

"That's what happens in playoff basketball," Lakers coach Phil

Jackson said. "The odds are very slim. They are always desperation


Bryant, coming off an amazing 42-point, no-turnover performance

in Game 4, was fabulous for three quarters. He finished with 22

points, five assists and five turnovers.

Devean George was his top sidekick with 16 points, many off

Bryant's passes, but he didn't score in the fourth quarter. O'Neal

had 11 points and 11 rebounds and played great defense on Duncan.

Duncan made only seven field goals, but they came in bunches.

There were three in the first quarter and the two eye-popping shots

late in the fourth. He finished with 21 points, 21 rebounds and

four blocks, but also made seven turnovers.

Tony Parker, who has cooled off since sparkling in the first two

games, had nine of his 15 points during the fourth-quarter rally.

Devin Brown added 11 points.Game notes
San Antonio's last home loss was March 1 against Memphis.

... The Lakers earned their first postseason win in six tries in

San Antonio's new arena, which opened last season. ... San Antonio

had two other three-game losing streaks this season -- to the Hawks,

Timberwolves and Pacers in January and to the Lakers, Warriors and

Clippers in November-December.