LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Gary Payton swears he didn't have anything to
Maybe so, but there's no doubt he had some extra incentive.
A day after expressing frustration and anger with his teammates,
coaching staff and the media, Payton played his best game of the
playoffs. And so did the Los Angeles Lakers, routing San Antonio
105-81 on Sunday to cut the Spurs' lead to 2-1 in the Western
Game 4 will be played Tuesday night at Staples Center, with Game
5 Thursday night in San Antonio.
Tony Parker shredded the Lakers for 50 points and 14 assists in
leading the Spurs to a pair of 10-point victories to begin the
Payton shouldered much of the blame.
"I know I can play basketball -- I've played it for 14 years. I
know what's going on," said the 35-year-old point guard, who had
15 points and seven assists and helped limit Parker to eight points
and five assists.
"Today we made a conscious effort to focus on (Parker). I don't
really go back and say, `I told you so," Payton said. "We came
back and played a good game today. Everybody did a good job on
defense. We knew we needed a win. We came out and played the way
we're supposed to."
Facing a must-win situation, Shaquille O'Neal dominated the
inside and the Lakers made life miserable for Parker and superstar
teammate Tim Duncan, who scored 54 points in the first two games.
Duncan shot 4-of-14 for 10 points and committed six turnovers,
and Parker was 4-of-12 and had three turnovers -- one more than his
total in the first two games.
"I know they're going to try and get Tony and Tim back in the
game," Payton said of Game 4. "Tuesday, if we're to win, it's a
whole different series. That's what we're trying to accomplish
O'Neal had 28 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and eight
blocked shots; Kobe Bryant added 22 points, six rebounds and six
assists, and Karl Malone had 13 points, six rebounds and five
assists for the Lakers, who shot 56.9 percent.
"We knew what we had to do today," O'Neal said. "We really
didn't ever lose confidence, we just did not take care of the
basketball and we let two games slip away. Today, we played good
defense and shot the ball well."
Only seven NBA teams have come back to win a best-of-seven
series after losing the first two games. But no team has ever
prevailed after losing the first three -- a fact the Lakers knew
only too well.
The loss snapped San Antonio's 17-game winning streak -- the last
11 of the regular season and the first six of the playoffs. The
Spurs had also won eight straight postseason games dating back to
the NBA Finals against New Jersey last June.
"It happened," Duncan said. "It's about how we respond to the
loss, what we learn, how we adjust."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said his team decided to plug the lane
and give up the 3-point shot.
The strategy worked, even though the Spurs shot 11-of-27 from
"We were a little more aggressive screen roll-wise," Jackson
said. "As a result, there wasn't a whole lot of opportunity."
Especially for Parker.
"The (defensive) help came faster," Parker said. "They played
better defense, but I think the key is, we didn't match their
added 16 for the Spurs, who shot 34.1 percent and committed 21
turnovers -- two less than their total in the first two games.
Duncan also had 13 rebounds to lead his team to a 45-41
advantage in that department.
"Los Angeles really dismantled us," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "They did a great job, they were very aggressive from the
get-go, executed well."
The Lakers took command by outscoring the Spurs 18-5 for a 68-45
lead late in the third quarter.
It was 75-58 entering the final period. The Spurs scored five
straight points to draw within 12, but the Lakers scored the next
10 to clinch the victory.
Bryant made 3-pointers to start and finish a 12-0 run in the
first that gave the Lakers a 19-8 lead, and they were on top the
rest of the way. The Lakers had assists on 11 of their 12 baskets
in the first quarter, and led 42-32 at halftime.Game notes
A three-day pretrial hearing on Bryant's sexual assault
case begins Monday in Eagle, Colo., meaning he'll have to rush back
for Tuesday night's game. He's done the same things three times
previously, including the final game of the Lakers' first-round
series against Houston, when he had 31 points and 10 assists in a
97-78 victory. ... The Spurs hadn't lost since March 23, when they
were beaten by the Timberwolves at Minnesota 86-81. ... Ginobili
(9) and Brown (8) combined to score 17 of San Antonio's 32
first-half points. ... San Antonio's reserves outscored their Los
Angeles counterparts 50-22. ... The Spurs' starters scored only 31
points, shooting 12-of-46. The Lakers' starters scored 83, shooting
30-of-47. O'Neal was 11-of-13 from the field and 6-of-11 from the
foul line. ... The Spurs' 17-game winning streak equaled a
franchise record. They won 17 in a row for the first time late in
the 1995-96 season. ... The Lakers have won 40 straight playoff
games when leading by 10 or more points at halftime.
- Jack Nies
- Blane Reichelt
- Steve Javie