Spur of the moment
Duncan scores 37 as San Antonio takes 3-0 lead over L.A.
Posted: Sunday May 23, 1999 11:21 AM
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) -- Tim Duncan's first mesmerizing performance of the playoffs and the Lakers' own ineptitude for the third straight game added up to another victory for San Antonio -- and a chance to sweep the Lakers.
Duncan scored a playoff career-high 37 points, including 19 on free throws, and picked up the Spurs in place of a foul-plagued David Robinson as they beat Los Angeles 103-91 Saturday to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal.
"That guy, in my mind, is the best player in the NBA," Spurs guard Mario Elie said. "He's the most focused and tough guy out there. He did a great job reading the double team and not forcing it."
The Lakers are facing a playoff sweep for the second straight year, having lost 4-0 to Utah in the conference finals last season.
Game 4 is Sunday at the Forum.
"I'm very frustrated," Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal said. "Down 3-0, I know we're in a hole."
Robinson finished with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting. Duncan, Robinson, Sean Elliott and Jaren Jackson combined to make all of San Antonio's 27 free throws on 33 attempts. Beside's Duncan's 19 points at the line, Robinson had four, Elliott two and Jackson two. Duncan also had 14 rebounds.
"We keep on pounding away and keep on staying mentally tough," Spurs guard Avery Johnson said. "If we keep on making our free throws, we're really going to be a tough team."
Jackson scored a career playoff-high 22 points off the bench, including 13 in the fourth.
"We've had opportunities to win, just as many as they've had," Lakers backup guard Derek Harper said. "They've just cashed in on theirs."
Rice scored 24 points, O'Neal had 22 points and 15 rebounds and Bryant scored 20, but Los Angeles was 22-of-36 from the free throw line and played poorly down the stretch. The Lakers are averaging 14 turnovers in the three games.
"Turnovers, once again, killed us," Lakers rookie coach Kurt Rambis said. "There can't be any time for not executing effectively, not running plays right, not getting people open, not moving the basketball. Those things just can't happen."
But they did.
Rice missed three shots in the final minute and turned the ball over late on a bad pass, while Bryant lost the ball out of bounds with 33 seconds left.
"My mind went one place and the ball went another place," Bryant said.
In Game 2, Bryant missed two free throws in the final seconds.
"We got to get the ball to the right guys and take smart shots," O'Neal said. "We haven't been doing that. Once again, for the third game in a row, we didn't play that smart."
Duncan did from the start. He had 24 points in the first half -- more than he averaged in the first two games, while working against the double-team employed by the Lakers for the first time in the series. Robinson played just seven minutes in the first half because of three fouls.
"We've played three games where we've had to grind it out all the way to the end," Duncan said. "We find a way to get it done because we keep on playing defense."
Duncan and Robinson each picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter when the Spurs' largest lead was six, and the Lakers led 81-77 on a 3-pointer by Bryant in the fourth.
A flagrant foul by Robert Horry led to a four-point swing and tied the game at 81 with 5:58 remaining. Horry was whistled for hitting Robinson in the stomach, and the Spurs center hit both free throws and dunked on the ensuing possession.
Horry made up for it when he rebounded O'Neal's second missed free throw and fed Rice for a layup and an 84-81 lead with 5:29 left.
Derek Fisher's three-point play put the Lakers ahead 88-86 and they still led on Horry's 3-pointer that made it 91-90 with 1:55 left. They never scored again.
Jackson hit a 3-pointer and Johnson scored to put the Lakers down for good. The Spurs ended the game on a 13-0 run, with Jackson and Johnson hitting from all over.
"I was able to make shots that really put a dagger in them," Johnson said.
The Lakers opened the third quarter with a 17-6 run to take their first lead, 56-50, since the final minute of the first quarter. Rice scored seven straight points, O'Neal added six and Bryant punctuated things with a fast break slam dunk, cockily wagging his finger as he dashed back upcourt.
San Antonio answered by outscoring the Lakers 14-2 despite Duncan picking up his third foul. Mario Elie's driving layup off a steal put the Spurs back in front 63-58, and the Spurs took a 67-66 lead into the fourth quarter.
Notes: The Spurs won at the Forum for the first time since April 1997. ... Duncan's previous playoff career high was 33 points against Utah in May 1998. ... The Lakers still haven't won a game on a Saturday this season, going 0-4. ... No NBA team has ever come back after being down 0-3. ... The series winner will face either Portland or Utah in the conference finals. The Trail Blazers lead the Jazz 2-1.
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