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|The World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, a class act,|
|05/26/01 at 09:35:32|
I think its only fair that a whole thread be set aside for a team that is in a league all by itself.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The clash of titans in the West is a fraud. Merciless mismatch is more like it.
Kobe Bryant scores some style points to go along with his 36 real points.
With a 111-72 rout of the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers erased any doubt that they could become the first NBA team to sweep its way through the playoffs.
Led by the superstar duo that has gone from a family feud to an incomparable on-court partnership, the defending champions have won 18 in a row, 10 this postseason.
"We're in a flow," Kobe Bryant said. "It's togetherness, playing as a team. We support one another on the court no matter what's going on."
Shaquille O'Neal had 35 points and 17 rebounds, while Bryant had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, as the Lakers embarrassed a Spurs team that compiled the best record in the NBA regular season, only to be dominated by Los Angeles.
"My guys played beautiful, once again," O'Neal said.
The Lakers lead the Western Conference finals 3-0 and can complete a sweep with a homecourt victory on Sunday.
The only remaining drama is whether anyone can beat Los Angeles, even once.
Los Angeles' 10-0 run is the best start in the playoffs since the 1989 Lakers went 11-0, only to lose Magic Johnson and Byron Scott to injuries and be swept by Detroit in the NBA Finals.
It might take that kind of calamity to slow these Lakers.
No team has come back from being down 3-0 to win a series, and the others who tried were playing mere mortals, not a Los Angeles team that is improving each time it takes the court.
"Last year, we weren't as ruthless with opponents as we are this year," Lakers forward Rick Fox said. "This is the way we thought this team could be."
David Robinson tried to keep San Antonio close with a 24-point performance, but Tim Duncan, after scoring a career playoff-high 40 in Game 2, was just 3-for-14 from the field and scored nine points. Antonio Daniels scored 17 points for the Spurs, who suffered their worst loss of the season.
"They're playing very, very well," Robinson said of the Lakers. "It was a total dismantling of our team. Wow. It was a bad one. ... That never happens. It's not supposed to happen in a game like this."
Derek Fisher scored 13 points and Fox had 11 for Los Angeles.
The Lakers ended any doubt with a devastating 37-12 blitz over the final 8½ minutes of the third quarter and first 6½ minutes of the fourth.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said he thinks his team may have stopped believing it can beat the Lakers.
"It made me wonder if we believe as a group if we have enough juice," Popovich said.
Daniels' two free throws made it 61-54 with 8:39 left in the third. Before the Spurs knew what hit them, it was 98-66.
"They looked tired," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "They looked fatigued from the game, from the energy of the game, and we were able to ride that spurt from the third quarter."
Bryant scored from all angles. O'Neal bulled his way to baskets inside. Bryant opened the final quarter with a two-handed reverse stuff on a drive to the basket.
It was showtime again.
Despite shooting just 29 percent in the second quarter and without O'Neal for the final 3:08 of the half, the Lakers still led 54-44 at the break.
With its offense sputtering, Los Angeles relied on a tough defense that, combined with more poor outside shooting from the Spurs, held San Antonio to 37 percent shooting in the first half (16-for-43).
Derek Anderson, who had been out for 20 days after dislocating his right shoulder in Game 1 of the second-round series with Dallas, was back in Spurs' starting lineup, replacing Danny Ferry. But Anderson wasn't even close on seven shots in 22 ineffective minutes.
O'Neal, who shot just 8-for-21 in Game 2 and was criticized by coach Phil Jackson for a lack of energy, made his first five shots and was 7-for-8 and scored 15 in the first quarter as the Lakers took a 34-21 lead.
Los Angeles had one of its worst offensive quarters of the playoffs in the second, making just seven of 24 shots. Still, the Spurs, whose shooting woes continued with 37 percent marksmanship in the first half, couldn't pull even.
O'Neal went to the bench with his third foul with 3:08 to play in the first half. Daniels made two free throws with 2:59 remaining to cut the lead to 49-44. But the Shaq-less Lakers scored the final five points of the half, three by Bryant on a stuff and one of two free throws, to lead 54-44.
Fisher was 9-for-10 on 3-pointers in the series before he missed two in a row. ... The Spurs were 1-for-12 on 3-pointers, leaving them 10-for-43 in the series. They had shot 42 percent in the playoffs going into the series, and 41 percent in the regular season. ... Anderson's first shot was blocked by Robert Horry and led to a layup by Bryant. ... The Lakers' closest game in the playoffs is a three-point victory over Sacramento in the first game of the second round (108-105). ... The 1983 Philadelphia 76ers had the NBA's best playoff record at 12-1.
|Re: The World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, a class act,|
|05/26/01 at 09:40:26|
This thread is dedicated to Arsalan. :)
Spurs left wondering if they can salvage one win
LOS ANGELES -- Derek Anderson showed up, David Robinson woke up, and the San Antonio Spurs still got clobbered.
Tim Duncan and the Spurs had to wonder if anyone could beat the Lakers on Friday.
And were embarrassed in the process.
The Spurs aren't dead yet, but they might as well be, considering no team has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series.
The streaking Los Angeles Lakers put the Spurs in such a position Friday night, leading all the way in a resounding 111-72 victory at Staples Center, where they can complete a sweep of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.
How do you rebound from that?
Afterward, an angry Spurs coach Gregg Popovich questioned whether his players believed they could beat the Lakers.
"If you get beat that bad, assuming you have no talent problems, assuming you know the character of your team, you know it's not the character, so you have to wonder if it's their belief," Popovich said. "If deep down in their guts, it's their belief that has waned, and it (ticks) me off.
"I don't know if I'm astonished or disappointed. ... I think I'm both."
When asked about Game 4, Popovich said: "You go play. There's no elixir. I don't know any drills we can do. You just come out and play hard."
Anderson, San Antonio's second-leading scorer during the season, played for the first time since separating his right shoulder May 5 on a flagrant foul by Dallas' Juwan Howard, and was ineffective throughout.
Anderson started at small forward in place of Danny Ferry, and never got rolling.
Rick Fox blocked his first shot, and Anderson went scoreless in the first half, missing five shots while playing 14 minutes. He finished with only two points -- on free throws early in the third quarter -- and was 0-for-8 from the field.
Anderson was thought to be San Antonio's best defensive weapon against Kobe Bryant, but didn't guard the Lakers star at all. Instead, Antonio Daniels again handled the assignment, and was again ineffective.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had said this week that Anderson's return could work to the Spurs' disadvantage considering he spent nearly three weeks on the sidelines.
It proved to be an accurate assessment.
"Shots just didn't go down," Anderson said. "Those are shots I usually hit. I didn't feel (rusty), my wind is there, everything felt good. Shots just didn't fall.
"It's very disappointing to lose a game; to get blown out really hurts."
Robinson, who had only 21 points in the Spurs' two losses to the Lakers in San Antonio, was much more aggressive and effective in Game 3, scoring eight points in the first five minutes and 24 overall -- all in the first three quarters.
But it did the Spurs little good since Anderson was unable to contribute, and star Tim Duncan, who scored 69 points in the first two games, had only nine, shooting 3-for-14 from the field and 3-for-8 from the foul line.
"Tonight was just a total dismantling of our team," Robinson said. "Wow, this was bad. I haven't experienced anything like this. I thought we'd respond well off the two losses. I'm very surprised we didn't."
At this stage, San Antonio's season-best 58-24 record means absolutely nothing. And the Lakers' 18-game winning streak including 10 in these playoffs means everything.
"We never had an answer for them," Duncan said. "When it goes bad, it all goes bad. They've defended us well the whole series, and we haven't made shots. It was a poor effort, we let them run wild."
The game was history after three quarters, with the Lakers holding an 86-64 lead.
Even with Duncan and Robinson, their 7-foot Twin Towers, the Spurs were outrebounded 63-35, and the Lakers had 22 offensive rebounds.
And the Spurs, who led the NBA in 3-point shooting during the season, were a miserable 1-for-12 behind the arc. They made only 9-of-31 from 3-point range in the first two games.
San Antonio's defensive effort was poor for any team, especially one reputed to have one of the NBA's finest defenses and in a such a big game.
"Of course, they're playing well," Daniels said. "The thing is, we've been playing well. To lose by 39 points, that's ridiculous."
Despite their precarious situation, the Spurs appeared flat at the outset, and didn't make a layup or dunk until early in the second quarter, a surprise considering their size.
It was 34-21 entering the second quarter, and Duncan didn't make a field goal until the game was 15 minutes old.
The Spurs got as close as five points in the second quarter, and could have made it three when Avery Johnson drove for an uncontested layup with a little over two minutes left before halftime.
He missed, the Lakers scored the final five points of the half for a 54-44 lead, and the Spurs didn't pose a serious threat after that.
|Lakers can run the table|
|05/26/01 at 09:43:19|
Lakers can run the table
By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to ESPN.com
The Los Angeles Lakers still have to win an NBA title to be considered one of the greatest single-season playoff teams of all time. But they have won 10 straight playoff games and are capable of becoming the first team in NBA history to run the table in the playoffs.
Kobe Bryant has his eyes set on another NBA championship.
If they went undefeated in the playoffs, the Lakers would go down as one of the all-time greatest championship teams. The only way the Lakers can avoid making history is if they beat themselves. But they have remained focused and poised, even when faced with adversity.
In Game 2 against San Antonio, I watched the Lakers during timeouts when they were behind by 10-14 points in the first half. There was no sign of negativism among any of the players. They showed quiet confidence and determination that eventually they would turn the game around, and they did to take a big 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.
On Friday, they blew out the Spurs by 39 points to claim a 3-0 series lead.
When compared to great playoff teams of the past, the Lakers' overall quality among their starters may be lacking. But they have two players, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, who may be recognized as two of the greatest all-time players by the time they are finished. Kobe, in particular, is playing at an extremely high level, doing everything from playing defense, to scoring, rebounding and passing. Plus, he has total team dedication and is a huge clutch player.
They are the two most dominating players at their positions in the game. There may be several guards with tremendous skills, but nobody can match Kobe. And in the basket area, Shaq is clearly the league's most powerful player.
Other than Kobe and Shaq, the other starters -- Rick Fox, Horace Grant and Derek Fisher -- do a terrific job and are great team players who make themselves valuable. In Game 1, when Grant did a terrific job on Tim Duncan, he didn't score a point. The Lakers' bench is very thin, with only two players who contribute -- Robert Horry and Brian Shaw. Neither player produces big numbers.
It's incredible how the Lakers have turned their season around since April 1, winning 18 straight games. The way they are playing, I don't see any team beating them. But if the Lakers get complacent, San Antonio is good enough to beat them and even take the series.
Complacency could have set in as early as Game 3 on Friday night, especially with the Lakers going home and feeling the home court can win the series for them.
San Antonio should have been playing desperate basketball, but the Lakers were up to the challenge, and then some. As an overall team, the Lakers are playing just superb basketball and shouldn't lose to the Spurs or anyone else.
Until the Lakers can continue their dominant run, win another title and prove they belong in such select company, here are my top five greatest single-season playoff teams in NBA history:
1. 1983 Philadelphia 76ers
It's hard to overlook what Philadelphia did, losing only one game of 13 playoff games and sweeping the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Their only loss came against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals. The 76ers were an excellent team, with Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones. Malone was a dominating big man. Toney, Cheeks and Bobby Jones were excellent defenders. Erving was outstanding in the open court. Coach Billy Cunningham got his talented team to play together at a high level.
2. 1971 Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were 12-2 in the playoffs and swept the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals. Their main players were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. The Big O was the catalyst and the glue who handled the ball and did everything. He was aided by Abdul-Jabbar, who was young and just getting to a dominant part of his career. Among the rest of the team, they had Bobby Dandridge and some very good role players.
3. 1996 Chicago Bulls
They won a record 72 games during the regular season, then went 15-3 in the playoffs and beat Seattle 4-2 in the NBA Finals. The '96 group was the most dominant of Chicago's six championship teams. They were excellent defensively, with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Jordan and Pippen were clearly the best defenders at their positions in the game. Rodman had maybe lost a little of his defensive ability, but he was still very good and a terrific rebounder. They had solid role players, with Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr.
4. 1986 Boston Celtics
The Celtics went 15-3 in the playoffs and defeated Houston 4-2 in the NBA Finals with a cast that included a starting lineup of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge, and Bill Walton and Scott Wedman off the bench. They were a strong team across the board.
5. 1950 Minneapolis Lakers
The Lakers were 11-2 in the playoffs, losing both games to Syracuse in the NBA Finals. The team had everything, with George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen and Arnie Ferrin. Mikan was the power player in the middle. Mikkelsen was a horse of a big forward. Pollard was the Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving and Kevin Garnett of his time -- a great all-around player.
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