SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- While the playoffs are considered a new season in the NBA, the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers may not want to run into the San Antonio Spurs.
Tim Duncan had 27 points and 17 rebounds and Tony Parker added 18 points as the Spurs completed their second ever regular-season sweep of the Lakers with a 98-89 victory.
"We've only beaten them twice. Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) has only played in two of the games," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich noted. "They are still the best team on the planet until proven different in the playoffs. We've been fortunate to beat them twice."
Duncan scored 16 points in the first half, when the Spurs built a 39-36 lead. Rookie Emanuel Ginobili came off the bench and scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Spurs held off a rally by Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
"I felt very relaxed out there," Ginobili said. "Everyone just really played hard, and it was a total team effort. I am just looking forward to continue to improve and move forward."
Parker was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, including six in the final minute, as San Antonio swept Los Angeles for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
The Spurs had lost two straight home games, including an overtime defeat to Minnesota on Friday.
"We had a lot of different players step up tonight," Parker said. "I felt that we did a lot of great things today in terms of scoring and just getting good looks. We really rebounded well from what were two tough games here. We need to continue to build, and Manu (Ginobili), Malik (Rose) did a great job offensively."
Bryant, who was hounded by Bruce Bowen and limited to 2-of-12 shooting in the first half, had 11 straight points for the Lakers in the fourth period.
"He did an incredible job tonight slowing down Kobe," Parker said of Bowen. "He makes him work for every shot that he gets and that really tires him out."
After Parker slipped and lost control of his dribble, Bryant completed a fast break with a dunk to pull Los Angeles within 84-79 with 2:48 remaining. But the Lakers got no closer as Duncan hit a one-handed jumper in the lane 17 seconds later.
Shaquille O'Neal had 32 points and 12 rebounds and Bryant added 31 and nine for the Lakers, who fell one game behind Utah for sixth place in the Western Conference.
O'Neal was not upset about getting swept. The Lakers have beaten the Spurs in each of the last two postseasons.
"This is the regular season, not the playoffs, so this loss is not a big deal," he said. "We just need to get everyone clicking and we'll be fine. We've been making too many mistakes down the stretch. We have a lot of opportunities, but were too many mistakes."
Stephen Jackson contributed 11 points, while Bowen and Rose each added 10 for the Spurs, who have won eight of their last 10 games and are third in the West. The 6-8 Rose also had 12 rebounds and guarded the 7-2 O'Neal for the majority of his 28 minutes off the bench.
After Duncan's jumper in the paint, Bowen stripped the ball from Bryant. The Spurs failed to convert, but Bryant missed a jumper and Parker hit a pair of free throws to push San Antonio's lead to 88-79 with 1:40 left.
The Lakers again got within five points seven seconds later as O'Neal powered through the lane and hit a bank shot. Bryant made a pair of free throws with 68 seconds left to pull Los Angeles within 88-83, but Parker hit the first of his six 19 seconds later.
Parker had eight points in the third quarter, when San Antonio outscored Los Angeles, 30-17. He capped a 10-1 run with a running layup to give the Spurs a 49-39 advantage with 8:53 left. Speedy Claxton's only basket of the game, a layup, gave the Spurs their biggest lead, 68-49, with 2;17 left.
"It was a disappointing finish tonight, we came out flat in the third quarter," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "The Spurs bench was critical to us tonight. We just have to take our lumps and come back and play better."