Lakers edge closer to finals berth

Los Angeles ruin the Spurs home record to go 3-1 up in the Western Conference finals.

    Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers again [AFP]
    Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from returning to the NBA finals.

    Bryant had 28 points and 10 rebounds and the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 93-91 to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals on Tuesday.

    It was the Spurs' first home loss this postseason, and the defending champions face elimination when Game 5 is played in Los Angeles on Thursday.

    Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 29 points and 17 rebounds.

    Reserve Brent Barry had 23 points and his last-second 3-point attempt could have given the Spurs the win.

    He claimed he was fouled on the play by Derek Fisher but there was no call.

    "If I was the official I wouldn't have called that a foul,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

    The Lakers led all game after opening a 22-8 lead.

    The Spurs got within 81-79 in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers scored seven straight points.

    Lamar Odom scored 16 points for Los Angeles, eight in the fourth quarter.


    "I told them at the end of the ballgame, their energy was terrific,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

    "Coming out and responding to a loss and getting a lead ... and playing with that kind of energy, I think, carried us over and we responded every time that they came in, tied the ball game.''

    Tony Parker added 23 points for the Spurs.

    "It was just a good defense and we missed a lot of easy shots,'' Parker said.

    "You know, myself, Timmy, we missed a lot of layups. It was just never, we never (were) in a good rhythm.''

    The Spurs shots 40 percent (30-of-75) from the field and the Lakers shot nearly 45 percent (38-of-85).

    With the Lakers up 93-86 and 50 seconds to play, Pau Gasol missed two free throws after being fouled by San Antonio's Fabricio Oberto.

    Manu Ginobili, who had struggled all night, hit a 3-pointer to bring the Spurs within four.

    After a miss by Bryant, Parker scored on a break when Odom was called for goaltending, bringing the Spurs within 93-91 with 28 seconds to play.

    Fisher missed a shot for Los Angeles but the ball went out of bounds and remained in the Lakers' possession with 2 seconds on the shot clock.

    Bryant missed a jumper and the Spurs had 2.1 seconds left.

    When Barry's 3 missed, Bryant pumped his fists in the air and the Lakers were headed home with command of the series.

    The Lakers were last in the finals in 2004 when they lost to Detroit in five games.

    On Wednesday, the Boston Celtics host the Detroit Pistons with their Eastern finals tied 2-2.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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