The Los Angeles Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 93-91 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday, pushing the defending NBA champion to the brink of elimination.
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (L) and Sasha Vujacic (R) fight for the loose ball with San Antonio Spurs' Brent Barry during Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference final basketball playoff series in San Antonio, Texas May 27, 2008.Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from returning to the NBA finals. Bryant had 28 points and 10 rebounds and the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 93-91 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Kobe Bryant scored 28 points and had 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who handed the home side its first home loss of the playoffs. The Lakers will secure a place in the NBA finals for the first time since 2004 with victory in Game 5 in Los Angeles today.
The Spurs never led in the game but could have snatched victory had Brent Barry made a three-pointer at the buzzer. Barry claimed he was fouled by Derek Fisher but there was no call.
"Bad clock management, that's what happens sometimes," Bryant told reporters. "We were fortunate to pull it out.
"We played extremely hard, we have to learn from these champs."
Tim Duncan had 29 points and 17 rebounds for the Spurs, who have won four NBA titles in the past nine years and were coming off a resounding victory in Game 3.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said his team had ample chances to win and did not blame officials for not calling a foul on Barry's final shot.
"If I was an official I wouldn't have called that," Popovich said. "We just didn't execute well, that's the bottom line."
Lamar Odom added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, while Pau Gasol had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
"We played with great energy and every time they tried to get back in the game, we responded," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Tony Parker had 23 points and nine assists for the Spurs, but Manu Ginobili managed just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting and was held pointless in the first half.
The Lakers now have the chance to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004 with Thursday's game on home court, where they are unbeaten in seven playoff games.
"We've got to get ready to play, they're not going to roll over and let us take it," Bryant added.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily May 29, 2008)