Lakers squeeze past Spurs in game one

An inspired Kobe Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers overturn a 20-point deficit to claim an 89-85 win in the first leg of their Western Conference final against the NBA's title holders, the San Antonio Spurs.


Kobe Bryant scored 25 of his 27 points in the second half Wednesday to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to an 89-85 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the opener of their National Basketball Association playoff series.

The Lakers erased a 20-point third-quarter deficit to beat the defending NBA champions in the first game of their best-of-seven Western Conference final series, from which the winner advances to the NBA Finals.

Spain's Pau Gasol scored 19 points for the Lakers, who trailed 65-45 with 5:54 to play in the third period.

"Obviously it was a great experience because we ended up winning, and I think we have to be happy the way we battled because we weren't playing well," Gasol said.

The Lakers didn't take the lead until league MVP Bryant made two free throws with 2:42 remaining.

Lamar Odom's layup had tied it at 81-81, and Bryant's foul shots and a jump shot gave the Lakers a four-point edge.

San Antonio forward Tim Duncan's putback tied the game at 85-85 with 41 seconds to play, but Bryant put Los Angeles ahead for good with a jump shot over Bruce Bowen with 23 seconds left.

Bryant had been scoreless in first quarter and managed just two points on three attempts by halftime.

"I know I can make that push, I could get the game back under control," Bryant said. "In the first half, we were a little rusty, a little sluggish and a little tentative."

Manu Ginobili missed a 3-pointer on the other end of the floor with less than 10 seconds to play.

"I had a couple of issues, but nothing that bad that can justify the way I played today," said Ginobili, who acknowledged a sore ankle but said no bumps or bruises accounted for a quiet 10 points. "I'm very upset, but now it's over and we just have to try to play them better."

Duncan finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds, and Tony Parker added 18, 10 and six assists for San Antonio, who had a quick turnaround after eliminating the Hornets in the previous round with a dramatic game seven win in New Orleans on Monday night.

In addition, travel glitches en route to Los Angeles meant the Spurs arrived later than planned on Tuesday and didn't practice.

"I think fatigue was probably a factor for them at the end," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

Game two is on Friday in Los Angeles, where the Lakers are 7-0 this postseason.

"We've got to dig deep down, forget about this and figure out a way to come back just as aggressively as we did the first three quarters," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

For much of the game the Lakers didn't look like launching the series with a victory.

Even the star-studded crowd at Staples Center was moved to boos as San Antonio opened the third quarter with a 15-2 scoring run and held the Lakers scoreless for the first four minutes of the final period.

Cheers ensued, however, as the Lakers responded with a 14-0 scoring run of their own to seize the momentum they needed.

"I've been in games where we were down 20 and it felt like coming back felt like a big hill. This game didn't really feel like that. It felt like when we got within 10 we had the energy necessary to take he lead," Bryant said.

"But it's a big win," he added. "It's big for a young team to come back from 20 against the defending champion."

"We were deep in the hole, there's no doubt about it - 20 down with half the quarter gone in the third period," Jackson said. "It was a struggle just to have to fight back into the ballgame by the end of the third quarter. That was a  good comeback against a good club."

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