/ 29 April 2013

Spurs’ Parker gives Lakers a run for their money

Tony Parker
Tony Parker

Parker scored 23 points on Sunday as San Antonio completed a four-game sweep in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series – the first time the 16-time champion Lakers had been swept in a first-round series since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in the 1983/84 season.

"It was just a weird feeling," Parker admitted after the Spurs posted their fourth straight double-digit victory over the Lakers, a team that scraped into the playoffs but had to make do without superstar Kobe Bryant, who tore an Achilles tendon in the final week of the regular season.

"Obviously, I'm happy we won, but it's just weird," Parker said of facing a Lakers team that by Sunday was missing not only Bryant but also injured point guard Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and veteran Metta World Peace.

To make matters worse, big man Dwight Howard was ejected from the game after receiving a second technical foul shortly after halftime.

He had been whistled for his first technical with 50.3 seconds left in the first quarter for elbowing San Antonio guard Cory Joseph, and was slapped with the second for arguing with an official.

Howard finished with seven points, eight rebounds and five turnovers before exiting what may have been his last game as a Laker, since he becomes a free agent on July 1.

'It wasn't a fair fight'
Pau Gasol – who battled knee tendinitis and a foot injury during the season – led the Lakers with 16 points, but Los Angeles never led and never really threatened.

Bryant made an appearance in the courtside seats, hobbling off on crutches as time expired.

"Obviously, it wasn't a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the lopsided series. "But having said that, they came to play every night … What I was pleased about with our team is that we kept our focus every night. We respected them every night."

Tim Duncan had 11 points and six rebounds for the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard and DeJuan Blair added 13 points apiece and Gary Neal contributed 11.

It was an ignominious end to a Lakers season in which the acquisition of Howard and Nash swelled the payroll to more than $100-million – a price tag meant to be justified by a return to the top for five-time champion Bryant and his new teammates.

But the new-look Lakers never really caught fire. Their early season struggles saw coach Mike Brown sacked in November. The selection of D'Antoni over former coach and fan-favourite Phil Jackson extended the turmoil and once the Lakers began to mesh, injuries kept them from building any momentum.

The sweep gives the Spurs plenty of time to rest before a second-round clash with either Denver or Golden State.

Denver head home
The Warriors took a 3-1 lead in that series on Sunday with a 115-101 victory on their home floor in Oakland, California.

Golden State's Stephen Curry shrugged off his sore left ankle, scoring a game-high 31 points that included 22 in the third quarter.

Curry got off to a slow start, going just 1-for-3 for seven points in the first half, but finished by connecting on 10-of-16 from the field to go with seven assists as the Warriors notched their third straight victory.

Jarrett Jack scored 21 points and handed out nine assists, and Carl Landry chipped in 17 points for the Warriors.

Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 26 points and six assists and Andre Iguodala added 19 points and eight rebounds, but Denver head home facing a must-win when they host game five on Tuesday. – AFP