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Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 12:35 PM EST
NBA RECAP
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San Antonio 87, La Lakers 82
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
San Antonio Spurs
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LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Los Angeles Lakers
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LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs saw their last two seasons end on the floor of the Staples Center. This season began in the same place, with much better results.

Taking advantage of the absence of superstar Shaquille O'Neal, the Spurs spoiled the championship ring ceremony of the Los Angeles Lakers and emerged with an 87-82 victory in a lethargic season opener for both teams.

The Spurs were swept by the Lakers in the 2001 Western Conference finals and lost in five games in last season's conference finals. Both series ended in Los Angeles, which has become an unpleasant trip for San Antonio.

"It was nice to get the season started off on a right note and to win here," Spurs forward Malik Rose said. "With or without Shaq, I'll take this one. We needed it."

"We (also) won here in the playoffs last year (in Game Two)," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recalled. "It was the only game we won here."

With O'Neal sidelined with a toe injury and forward Rick Fox suspended, the only time the Lakers looked like the three-time defending champions was before the game, when they received their rings from NBA commissioner David Stern.

It was a moving ceremony that paid tribute to long-time broadcaster Chick Hearn, who died during the offseason. But the emotion left the building shortly thereafter as the Lakers got off to a slow start and never really recovered.

"I hope that was as enjoyable to watch as it was for me to coach, that's all I can say," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It was not easy to digest that game. As bad as it is, it's probably better to win ugly than it is to lose ugly."

The Spurs won despite poor games from superstar Tim Duncan, who made just 3-of-14 shots, and point guard Tony Parker, who was 0-of-10. They got a lift from Speedy Claxton, who scored 13 points, and fellow newcomer Emmanuel Ginobili, who provided a spark in the fourth quarter.

"We did not play very well tonight," Duncan said. "Luckily, it is the first of 82."

"Speedy and Gino gave us some great energy," Spurs center David Robinson added.

Kobe Bryant scored 27 points on just 9-of-29 shooting for the Lakers, who shot less than 32 percent (27-of-85) and had a 10-game season-opener winning streak snapped.

"I thought he looked to go 1-on-1 almost every time he went down (the court)," Jackson said.

"I shoudn't be shooting the ball like that," Bryant admitted. "I should get more guys involved."

Rose had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Duncan added 14 and 10 and Robinson 13 and 10 for the Spurs, who shot just 39 percent (26-of-71). But for once, they had more weapons than the Lakers.

A 3-pointer by Robert Horry gave LA its last lead at 66-65 early in the final period. Danny Ferry answered with a 3-pointer, Rose and Duncan sank free throws and Ginobili dunked to finish a fast break and give San Antonio a 72-66 lead with 9:07 to go.

With Bryant going scoreless for nearly 10 minutes, the Lakers got no closer than four points thereafter. Ginobili took a handoff from a double-teamed Duncan and soared for a reverse layup that made it 77-72. Claxton added a free throw and Duncan two for a 10-point bulge with 3:38 left.

The Lakers got two baskets from Slava Medvedenko and had a chance to get closer, but Ginobili poked the ball away from Bryant, which led to a layup by Claxton and an 84-76 lead with 1:34 remaining.

"I thought Speedy Claxton and Ginobili won the game for us," Popovich said. "Without them, we don't win."

Ginobili had seven points, four steals and three assists in 20 minutes off the bench. The 2000 second-round pick led Argentina to a stunning upset of Team USA and the silver medal at the World Championships this summer.

Steve Smith added 12 points for the Spurs, who shot 46 free throws, making 32.

Bryant didn't get much help. Medvedenko scored 11 points and Devean George added 10 for the Lakers, who saw big men Robert Horry and Samaki Walker foul out.

After getting his ring, O'Neal took a seat and watched his teammates quickly fall behind by nine points in the first quarter. But the Spurs got sloppy and allowed the Lakers to pull into a 41-41 halftime tie.


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