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1999 NBA Playoffs

L.A. swept away

Spurs send Lakers on vacation with 118-107 Game 4 win

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Posted: Monday May 24, 1999 01:25 AM

  Spurred on: Tim Duncan's (left) play throughout the series is one reason for San Antonio's first conference finals appearance since 1995. AP

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) -- Tim Duncan remembers when the San Antonio Spurs were a struggling, sub-.500 team. That was less than three months ago.

Boy, have things changed. And he's the main reason.

Duncan, who seems to get a little better every day, had 33 points, 14 rebounds and four assists Sunday to lead the Spurs to a 118-107 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, completing a four-game sweep of the Western Conference semifinal series.

A day earlier, Duncan had 37 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in a 103-91 victory.

"I think Tim is phenomenal," said David Robinson, San Antonio's go-to player for years until being supplanted in that role by Duncan early this season. "Obviously, it's been a good balance for us. I don't think it slows my leadership. I still have a great responsibility."

While the surging Spurs are headed for the conference finals for just the fifth time in their history, the over-hyped Lakers are suddenly on vacation.

Duncan went 11-of-14 from both the field and foul line as the Spurs, who finished the regular season with 31 wins in their final 36 games, raised their playoff record to 7-1.

"He's just a heck of a competitor, he plays an all-around game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan, the first overall selection in the 1997 NBA draft. "He really understands how to play, he's just smart.

"He's a guy who inherently understands the game, like Magic [Johnson] understood it, like [Larry] Bird understood it. He just competes."

The Spurs broke open a tight game by scoring the first 13 points of the fourth quarter. The Lakers weren't closer than seven points after that.

"We just kept our composure, ran our offense the way we wanted to and went back and set up our defense," Duncan said. "We defended well, played the pick-and-roll the way we want to play it, and just stuck with the game plan."

Duncan said there was no one thing that turned the Spurs around after their 6-8 start.

"It didn't just happen," he said. "Things just started clicking. We had a long process to get there."

Now, the Spurs get some time off before facing the winner of the Utah-Portland series, with a berth in the NBA Finals at stake.

And the Lakers, who haven't won a championship since 1988, have the summer to try and figure out what went wrong. Again.

"Basically, it boils down to teamwork," said Lakers forward Glen Rice, who was held to 11 points. "A lot of times there wasn't a lot of teamwork out there. We weren't together. They were together."

Reserve Jaren Jackson added 20 points and Avery Johnson had 19 points and 10 assists for the Spurs, who went 39-of-54 from the foul line compared to 23-of-36 for the Lakers.

Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers with 36 points and 14 rebounds. Rick Fox added 17 points and Kobe Bryant had 16 points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles.

"It's very embarrassing," O'Neal said of being swept by the Spurs. "Every time I get sent home, I get embarrassed.

"I hate saying, 'Well, we played hard.' No, now it's over."

The Spurs, who have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, have never advanced to the NBA Finals, much less won a championship.

This could be their year.

They last reached the conference finals four years ago, when they lost to eventual champion Houston in six games.

The game was the final regular-season or playoff game for the Lakers at the Forum, where they've played their home games since Dec. 31, 1967.

They are scheduled to play two exhibition games at the Forum next fall before moving to the new Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for the 1999-2000 season.

The Spurs, who never trailed, seemed to have the game well in hand late in the third quarter, leading 86-72.

But then, with the sellout crowd of 17,505 in a frenzy, the Lakers scored the final 12 points of the quarter to draw within two.

That's when the Spurs put the game away.

Jackson made a 3-pointer and Jerome Kersey converted a three-point play in the opening 33 seconds of the fourth quarter to extend San Antonio's lead to eight points.

Robinson and Kersey added jumpers, and Jackson nailed another 3-pointer to make it 99-84 before the Lakers managed their first points of the final period, a jumper by Fox with eight minutes left.

Fox scored consecutive baskets to make it 105-97 with 2:30 remaining, but Jackson's 3-pointer 13 seconds later sealed the verdict.

Jackson and Kersey each scored nine points in the fourth quarter.

Notes: O'Neal's teams were also eliminated from the playoffs in ugly fashion in each of his five previous trips. The Orlando Magic lost to Indiana 3-0 in a first-round series in 1994; was beaten by Houston 4-0 in the NBA Finals in 1995, and was swept by Chicago 4-0 in the Eastern Conference finals in 1996. Then, the Lakers lost to Utah 4-1 in the Western Conference semifinals in 1997, and 4-0 to the Jazz in the Western Conference finals last year. ... The Lakers have faced a 3-0 deficit in five playoff series, and lost Game 4 each time. ... Los Angeles forward Travis Knight fouled out with 9:39 left in the game after playing a total of six minutes -- an NBA playoff record. San Antonio's Will Perdue held the record previously, fouling out in seven minutes. ... Johnson, who hadn't even attempted a 3-pointer in the playoffs, much less connected, made one early and scored 10 points in the first six minutes. He averaged 8.0 points in the first three games of the series.

 
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While the Lakers were focused on the Spurs' Tim Duncan inside, Jaren Jackson burned L.A. for 20 from the perimeter.
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