The Lakers will be playing in the finals for the 23rd time since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1961 and the 29th time overall. They have won 14 championships — nine in Los Angeles and five in Minneapolis.
The Lakers and the Celtics have met 10 times in the finals, with Boston winning the first eight matchups and Los Angeles the last two — in 1985 and 1987. That’s the last time the Celtics advanced to the championship round.
The Lakers and Pistons have met three times in the finals, most recently in 2004, when Detroit won in five games. Shaquille O’Neal, who teamed with Bryant to lead the Lakers to three straight championships starting in 2000, was traded a month later, and the Lakers hadn’t won a postseason series since until last month.
San Antonio’s elimination might signal the end of its era of dominance. With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs won championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, but with a rotation made up solely of 30-something players except for the 26-year-old Parker, the future seems uncertain.
Meanwhile, starting guard Derek Fisher and seldom-used reserve Ira Newble are the only players on the Los Angeles roster over 30.
“I really expected to be here, even with all the questions at the beginning of the season,” Fisher said.
Ultimately, it was the Lakers’ youth, quickness and athleticism that determined this series. The turning point occurred in Game 1, when the Spurs took a 20-point third-quarter lead before the Lakers outscored them 44-20 for an 89-85 victory.
San Antonio had a shot in Game 4, but the Lakers held on for a 93-91 victory that put the Spurs on the brink of elimination. And that came Thursday night.
A 3-pointer by Luke Walton and baskets by Farmar and Bryant gave the Lakers a 74-68 lead with 8½ minutes remaining, and they were on top the rest of the way.
The Spurs led by as many as 10 points early in the third quarter, but the Lakers turned up their defensive intensity during a 19-8 run that gave them a 61-60 lead — their first since the opening minute. Bryant scored nine points during the spurt. Los Angeles led 64-63 entering the final period.
The Spurs got 3-pointers from Finley, Ginobili and Barry during a 15-1 run that gave them a 33-16 lead early in the second quarter. The Lakers went nearly 7½ minutes without a field goal until Farmar scored three straight baskets to trim San Antonio’s lead to 11.
It was 46-31 before the Lakers went on an 11-2 run to finish the second quarter, cutting the Spurs’ lead to 48-42.
Notes: Only eight teams in NBA history have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The Spurs are now 0-7 in such situations. ... Phoenix was the last NBA team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series, accomplishing the feat against the Lakers two years ago in the first round. ... Bryant attempted only 11 free throws in this series after attempting 96 against Utah.
PBT: LeBron James created self-imposed pressure to win "not two, not three, not four" titles. Thus, should the Heat's title chase fail, it's his legacy that will take the hit.
PBT: All season long, the Heat have largely coasted, only turning up their intensity when facing elimination. That won't be good enough in Game 6 tonight.
Ready for the finals
May 29: Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant look ahead after winning the Western Conference.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Bosh: 'We'll see who hits first'
Heat forward Chris Bosh talks about what could be a very physical Game 6 stating, 'hit them in the mouth, throat and their eyes'. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra says the opposing Spurs 'attack you.. but we do the same thing'.
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