A 101-71 romp by the Los Angeles Lakers over defending champions the San Antonio Spurs on Friday moved Kobe Bryant's club halfway to a berth in the NBA Finals.
NBA Most Valuable Player Bryant scored 22 points, while Lamar Odom added 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead a devastating blowout by the Lakers, who grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
The Lakers can finish a sweep by winning today and Tuesday in San Antonio, where the Spurs went 34-7 this season and 6-0 in the playoffs.
San Antonio fell behind New Orleans 2-0, but rallied and advanced in seven games to meet the Lakers, but that feat brought little comfort.
Either the Lakers or Spurs will face the Eastern Conference champions, Boston or Detroit, in next month’s NBA Finals. The Celtics and Detroit are level 1-1.
The Spurs, trying to win back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history, remain a serious threat despite blowing a big lead in Game 1 and never leading in Game 2, Bryant warned.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” Bryant said. “They are going to up the pressure, try to take us out of our offensive rhythm. We have to do a better job of running our [offense], break up that pressure.”
Odom scored 11 points in the third quarter when the Lakers pulled away.
The Lakers were faster, more aggressive and played with a faster tempo and more energy than San Antonio in Game 2, blowing open the game from a 37-37 deadlock late in the second quarter.
Los Angeles went on a 20-4 run to end the first half with a 46-37 halftime lead and started the third quarter with a 9-4 run.
The Lakers, who improved to 7-0 at home in the playoffs, stretched the margin to 74-57 entering the fourth quarter as the Spurs went silent from the field the final three minutes of the third quarter.
“They came out in the third quarter with renewed vigor,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We answered that challenge and we were fortunate to get out of the quarter with that lead.”
The fourth quarter was an anti-climax as San Antonio played reserves to rest top talent for Game 3 and the Lakers’ bench depth completed the rout.
Tony Parker led San Antonio with 13 points, while Duncan had 12 points and 16 rebounds but took only one shot in the second half. Ginobili, hurt by a sore ankle, was only two-of-eight for seven points and was his own harshest critic.
“I’m not taking it that the ankle is limiting me. I’m just playing bad,” Ginobioli said.