Lakers trounce San Antonio for 3-0 series lead
LOS ANGELES The clash of titans in the West is a fraud. Merciless mismatch is more like it.
With a 111-72 rout of the San Antonio Spurs last night, the Los Angeles Lakers erased any doubt that they could become the first NBA team to sweep its way through the playoffs.
Led by the superstar duo that has gone from a family feud to an incomparable on-court partnership, the defending champions have won 18 in a row, 10 this postseason.
"We're in a flow," Kobe Bryant said. "It's togetherness, playing as a team. We support one another on the court no matter what's going on."
Shaquille O'Neal had 35 points and 17 rebounds, while Bryant had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, as the Lakers embarrassed a Spurs team that has the best record in the NBA regular season, only to be dominated by Los Angeles.
"My guys played beautiful, once again," O'Neal said.
The Lakers lead the Western Conference finals 3-0 and can complete a sweep with a homecourt victory tomorrow.
The only remaining drama is whether anyone can beat Los Angeles, even once.
Los Angeles' 10-0 run is the best start in the playoffs since the 1989 Lakers went 11-0, only to lose Magic Johnson and Byron Scott to injuries and be swept by Detroit in the finals.
No team has come back from being down 3-0 to win a series, and the others who tried were playing mere mortals, not a Los Angeles team that is improving each time it takes the court.
"Last year, we weren't as ruthless with opponents as we are this year," Lakers forward Rick Fox said. "This is the way we thought this team could be."
David Robinson tried to keep San Antonio close with a 24-point performance, but Tim Duncan, after scoring a career playoff-high 40 in Game 2, was just 3-for-14 from the field and scored nine points. Antonio Daniels scored 17 points for the Spurs, who suffered their worst loss of the season.
"They're playing very, very well," Robinson said of the Lakers. "It was a total dismantling of our team. Wow. It was a bad one. ... That never happens. It's not supposed to happen."
Derek Fisher scored 13 points and Fox 11 for Los Angeles.
The Lakers ended any doubt with a devastating 37-12 blitz in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the third quarter and first 6 1/2 minutes of the fourth.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said he thinks his team may have stopped believing it can beat the Lakers.
"It made me wonder if we believe as a group if we have enough juice," Popovich said.
Daniels' two free throws made it 61-54 with 8:39 left in the third. Before the Spurs knew what hit them, it was 98-66.
"They looked tired," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "They looked fatigued from the game, from the energy of the game, and we were able to ride that spurt from the third quarter."
Derek Anderson, who had been out for 20 days after dislocating his right shoulder in Game 1 of the second-round series with Dallas, was back in the San Antonio starting lineup, replacing Danny Ferry. But Anderson wasn't even close on seven shots in 22 ineffective minutes.