Lakers Squeeze Past Spurs in Double OT

Friday, November 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ When the horn sounded and the 3 1/2-hour epic had finally ended, several of the Lakers immediately ran over and hugged former teammate Robert Horry. Horry's penchant for late-game heroics was well known to the Lakers, who didn't give him a chance to send the game to a third overtime as Los Angeles beat San Antonio 120-117 Thursday night.

With Horry unable to break free of the Lakers' defense, backup center Kevin Willis tried a 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 4 seconds left. Shaquille O'Neal blocked it, giving him one last nugget to add to a Shaq-sized stat line that included 35 points, 20 rebounds, six assists and four blocks in 50 minutes.

Kobe Bryant also had a huge game with 37 points and four steals in 49 minutes, although his shot selection late in the game angered coach Phil Jackson.

``It was quite a game,'' Jackson said. ``I thought we were going to find a way to lose this one a couple of times.''

In the only other NBA games Thursday night, Toronto beat Dallas 77-71 and Indiana held off New Jersey 87-81.

San Antonio was without injured starters Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, yet the defending NBA champions played an inspired game and got a career-high 33 points along with 12 rebounds and seven assists from Manu Ginobili.

``It would have been the best (game of his NBA career) by far if I had made one more shot,'' Ginobili said. ``I bet nobody in the arena thought we were going to win it.''

Despite being so short-handed, the Spurs led for most of regulation and never trailed by more than two in the first overtime. But after losing starters Rasho Nesterovic and Malik Rose to their sixth fouls in the second overtime, the Spurs had to play catch-up _ and nearly did it.

After the Lakers took a 117-112 lead, Horry made two free throws and a 3-pointer to tie it. Bryant missed a shot with 36 seconds left, another with 25 seconds remaining and another with 18 ticks left, but Los Angeles grabbed offensive rebounds each time.

O'Neal was fouled after the third one and made both shots for a 119-117 lead. Ginobili then missed a leaner from 6 feet and Willis missed a tip-in, but the Spurs got one more chance when Payton made just one of two from the line.

With Ginobili the first option and Hedo Turkoglu the second, San Antonio's inbounds pass went to Willis.

``He wasn't open,'' inbounder Jason Hart said of Horry.

Bryant shot 16-for-29 and added five rebounds, while O'Neal was 12-for-23 from the field and 11-for-16 at the foul line. Karl Malone added 15 points and 19 rebounds before fouling out, while Gary Payton had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

The fans booed Bryant every time he touched the ball, and Bryant went out of his way to respond.

On the Lakers' first possession of the second half, Bryant abandoned any semblance of a set offense and went to work one-on-one against defensive specialist Bruce Bowen.

Dribbling and changing directions rapidly, Bryant freed himself for a 20-foot jumper that dropped through. But while he backpedalled downcourt and waved his finger back and forth in a gesture to the crowd, Bryant's feet got tangled up and he tripped and fell on his backside. He uprighted himself with a backward somersault.

Bryant's quick trigger on the Lakers' final possession of the second overtime displeased Jackson, although Bryant said Jackson had given him the green light to shoot quickly. But their postgame difference of opinion was merely one small part of an intense game that had the fans on their feet for long stretches at the end.

``We'll just absorb this one,'' said Jackson, whose undefeated (5-0) team plays New Orleans on Friday night. ``We have to be back here in a month and play them with Duncan and Parker, so we'll see where we are then.''

Raptors 77, Mavericks 71

At Toronto, Vince Carter had 19 points and the Raptors held Dallas to its lowest point total in nearly six years.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 27 points, but had just four in the second half. Steve Nash sat out after straining his left shoulder Wednesday night in a loss to Washington.

Antonio Davis had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Morris Peterson added 12 points for the Raptors.

Pacers 87, Nets 81

At East Rutherford, N.J., former Nets guard Anthony Johnson hit two late 3-pointers to help Indiana win its third straight.

Ron Artest had 21 points, Johnson added 17 and Jermaine O'Neal had 15 for the Pacers, who let a 19-point third-quarter lead shrink to two points with just under four minutes left.

Kerry Kittles had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Nets.