Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Tony Parker outshines LA's stars

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

Spurs guard Tony Parker, left, drives to the hoop as center Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers defends during the fourth quarter of Game 2 in the Western Conference semifinals in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday. The Spurs have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

PHOTO: AP

The move was scintillating enough to bring street-ball fans to their feet with a roar. Tony Parker, isolated in the left corner against an overmatched Devean George, executed a crossover dribble that nearly removed George from his sneakers.

Shaquille O'Neal was still in Parker's path, but even while giving up 11 inches and 160 pounds, Parker had something for him, too. Lofting a 3-foot floater over O'Neal, the game's most intimidating player, Parker scored sweetly with 3 minutes 38 seconds to play, pouring water on a torrid rally by the LA Lakers.

It was just one of a host of dynamic plays by Parker, the 21-year-old superstar on the rise who led the San Antonio Spurs to a 95-85 victory at the SBC Center on Wednesday night.

The defending champion Spurs, winners of 17 straight games, now have a two-games-to-none lead in this best-of-seven-game Western Conference semifinal series. Games 3 and 4 are in Los Angeles on Sunday and Tuesday.

The Lakers suddenly find themselves facing almost insurmountable odds. Only seven teams in NBA history have rallied to win a series after trailing by 2-0.

Unless the Lakers suddenly find an answer for Parker, it might very well be. On a court that featured three of the game's top five players and two more probable future Hall of Famers, Parker was the evening's outstanding performer.

Using wicked moves and a devastating jump shot, he scored 30 points, including 16 in the first quarter to help the Spurs take a 16-point lead. He scored six points in the final 5:18 to keep the Lakers at bay.

"I'm blessed to have such a young, talented kid," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

O'Neal led the Lakers' comeback attempt with a parade of dunks, but his 32 points and 15 rebounds were not enough on a night when Kobe Bryant scored only 15 points. O'Neal scored six points early in the fourth and Bryant added a jump shot to pull the Lakers within 80-78 with 6:16 to play.

But Hedo Turkoglu answered for the Spurs with a 3-pointer. Bryant came right back with a turnaround jumper, but Parker followed with two free throws, a splendid pass to Rasho Nesterovic that led to one free throw, and then his crazy crossover and layup against George.

"I was in attack mode and I just tried to get shots for me and my teammates," said Parker, who made 13 of 23 shots and added five assists and three steals. "I have a lot of confidence and I want to keep playing aggressive."

Tim Duncan, playing the unusual role of second fiddle, had 24 points and seven rebounds. And Manu Ginobili, who scored two big baskets in the fourth, followed with 15 points. Bryant, who made 7 of 17 shots, had eight assists and took on the role of playmaker.

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