STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. With the Lakers down by 25 points
with 2:26 left, the crowd rose for an ovation, showing their gratefulness
for the 3 consecutive championships and one of the most successful
streaks in NBA history.
There won't be four consecutive championships, at least not this
time. But this won't be the end of the story, the Lakers will
be back stronger next season to start it all over again.
The Spurs finally did what they needed to win, and that was leaving
Manu Ginobili on the court in the final quarter. He is the only
Spur with enough character to play in the crucial moments. Without
his key plays this series would have been completely different.
Duncan collected 37 points and 16 rebounds leading the Spurs
to a 110-82 victory. San Antonio never trailed after the game's
first minute and scored 44 of the game's final 62 points.
Tony Parker added 27 points for the Spurs, the last team other
than Los Angeles to win an NBA title.
San Antonio led by only two points with 4:43 left in the third
quarter, but the MVP Tim Duncan scored 8 points in a 10-0 run
that made it 76-64. Duncan finished 16-for-25 from the field.
A basket by Manu Ginobili made it 84-70 with 10:07 remaining.
Then Manu's 3-pointer with 8:09 to play made it 91-74, and the
Laker championship defense was through.
O'Neal finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds and Bryant scored
20 points but as usual they did not get enough help from the rest
of the team.
Kobe Bryant didn't take the loss well. He and Derek Fisher left
the court in tears. But this was just the coronation of a season
that went from bad to worse.
They lost home-court advantage during the regular season, mostly
because Shaq waited until Sept. 11 to have foot surgery that caused
him to miss training camp and the first 12 regular-season games.
He also required more time to get in good shape to be competitive,
and the result was an 11-19 start that complicated the entire
Then the Lakers lost Rick Fox, one of their best defenders, with
a serious injury in the first round of the playoffs. They lost
Devean George in the series opener against San Antonio and Phil
Jackson had to watch game 3 at home after undergoing heart procedure
to opened a blocked artery.
Finally the unavoidable happened. Owner Jerry Buss and general
manager Mitch Kupchak thought that having two of the best basketball
players was enough to win but with O'Neal struggling with his
foot and knee aching and carrying too much weight, Kobe clearly
tired from carrying the team much of the season, and a roster
gradually eroded over three years, the Lakers faced a team that
was clearly better and all the efforts did nothing but extend
The good news are the Lakers will make some adjustments and come
back with an improved roster. The available market suggests that
making the appropriate decisions they will be stronger and faster.
O'Neal and Bryant are under contract for 2003-2004 season, as
are Rick Fox, Devean George, Derek Fisher, Slava Medvedenko and
Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen, Samaki Walker and Tracy Murray will be
The Lakers hold a $5.3 million option for the 32-year-old Horry
and an option for Jannero Pargo, as well.
Also they have played 71 playoff games under Jackson over the
last 3 years, almost the equivalent of a full season, so they'll
have more time to rest this summer.
This was the end of a record run of 25 consecutive series wins
for Jackson (13 with the Lakers). For the first time since 1995
he ended a season without a championship.
Jackson is the most successful coach in NBA history, having won
a record 162 postseason games and coached 9 championship teams
in 13 years (the first six titles with the Chicago Bulls). His
nine titles are tied for the most in NBA history with former Boston
coach Red Auerbach
The Lakers won't join the Boston Celtics as the only NBA teams
to win more than three straight championships. The Celtics won
eight straight from 1959-66.
Shaquille O'Neal (LA): "We thank you for your support.
And we apologize.", asked for a message for the fans.
Kobe Bryant (LA) : "It's a foreign feeling. I don't
like the feeling. I don't think anybody else likes the feeling
I don't ever want to feel it again."
Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "I thought, it was the most
difficult season I had as a basketball coach."
Shaquille O'Neal (LA): "The last three years, we only
had 45 days off before we had to get back to work, so now the
guys who are injured, including myself, can take some extra days
to get healthy and in better shape. "..."We'll regroup,
get some free agents, get some new guys, get some new blood and
then hopefully start a new run next year."
Derek Fisher (LA): "Some people have said that the
dynasty is over, but there's still a lot of time left in this