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Lakers push defending NBA champion Spurs to brink

SAN ANTONIO, May 28 – The Los Angeles Lakers handed the defending champion San Antonio Spurs their first home defeat of the playoffs Tuesday to take a stranglehold on their National Basketball Association semi-final series.

NBA Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant scored 28 points with 10 rebounds as the Lakers held off the Spurs 93-91 to take a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference final series.

The Lakers will try to close out the series and book their berth in the NBA Finals when they host game five in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Lamar Odom, who struggled through a dismal game three, scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 10 and 10 for the Lakers, who shot 44 percent from the field.

Tim Duncan scored 29 points with 17 rebounds and Tony Parker chipped in 23 points for the Spurs, who didn’t go quietly.

Tony Parker’s fastbreak layup in the wake of a goaltending call on Odom cut the Lakers lead to 93-91.

On the next possession, the Spurs forced a jump-shot miss by the Lakers that went out of bounds off the leg of Robert Horry.

That gave the Lakers the ball back with two seconds on the shot clock, but Bryant missed a jump shot to give the Spurs one more chance with 2.1 seconds to play.

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Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (R) drives to the basket
©AFP/Getty Images – Stephen Dunn

Horry inbounded the ball to Brent Barry, who pump-faked once before throwing up a wild 3-pointer under pressure from Derek Fisher at the buzzer that was wide right.

"Fish came from the weak side and I didn’t see him until I turned, and by then it was too late," Barry said.

In the aftermath, the Spurs said that despite some apparent contact, the lack of a foul call on the play was correct.

"It wasn’t a foul," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. "If I’d been the official, I wouldn’t have called a foul."

Added Spurs star Tim Duncan: "You’re not going to get that call, they’re not going to make that call.

"(Barry) made the right play, he knows they’re not going to make that call – he’s trying to get a good look at the basket and make a clean shot."

Barry finished with 23 points for San Antonio.

Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers and Fabricio Oberto of the San Antonio Spurs go up for a rebound
©AFP/Getty Images – Ronald Martinez

"We wouldn’t have had a chance if it hadn’t been for Brent tonight," Popovich said. "He was great, not just because he made some shots but he played a good floor game, good ‘D’."

The Spurs started the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run, including Barry’s 3-pointer from the top of the key, but the Lakers still led 77-75.

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After a big game three, San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili struggled offensively with just seven points.

"If we were going to go down with him shooting, I wanted to make sure he was shooting in my face," Bryant said of Ginobili. "I think the game didn’t flow his way. What we wanted to do is stay as attached to him as possible and not let him get open looks."

Ginobili did hit an 18-footer that narrowed the gap to 81-79, but Odom responded with five straight points. A steal by Bryant led to an easy dunk to make it 88-79 with 3:26 remaining.

The Spurs, trailing 22-8 with 5:06 to play in the first period, ended the quarter on a 15-6 run.

But the Lakers responded to all of San Antonio’s bursts.

Barry hit two free throws and Parker converted a three-point play to tie the game at 43-43 with 3:16 to go in the first half.

Then Duncan’s 10-footer in the paint tied things at 45-45, but the Lakers answered with an 8-2 run that saw them lead 53-47 at halftime.

Ginobili started the second half in place of Michael Finley, who never got going offensively, but could do little to turn the tide.

"I thought he tried to be aggressive, he just couldn’t get it going," Duncan said of Ginobili.

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