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Starting in 1999, the Spurs (in black) and Lakers combined to win seven consecutive Western conference titles. Although the rivalry has fallen off recently, the teams still retain many of the players who were part of the championship clubs.

The San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers, two American professional basketball teams who are members of the NBA's Western Conference, have played each other since the 1970s. In the late 1990s and early 2000s an intense rivalry developed between the two clubs. Since 1999, the teams have met in the NBA Playoffs five times, with the clubs combining to appear in seven consecutive NBA Finals (1999–2005). Additionally, the teams combined to win each NBA Championship from 1999–2003. The Spurs won the NBA championship in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, while the Lakers won the championship in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009. During this period the clubs' rivalry was often considered the premier rivalry in the NBA,[1] and each time the clubs faced each other in the playoffs the winner advanced to the NBA Finals. The rivalry fell off in 2005 to 2007, with the Lakers missing the playoffs in 2005 and losing in the first round to the Phoenix Suns in 2006 and 2007, but intensified again in 2008 when they met in the Western Conference Finals. It is considered one of the greatest rivalries of the 2000s with the two teams combining to win a total of six titles in eight seasons.

Contents

Background

The Los Angeles Lakers were originally founded as the Detroit Gems in 1946 before relocating to Minneapolis, Minnesota and renaming themselves the Lakers (Minnesota's nickname is "The Land of 10,000 Lakes"). The club won several titles led by center George Mikan in the 1950s before transferring to Los Angeles, California in 1960.[2] In 1972 they won another championship led by center Wilt Chamberlain and shooting guard Jerry West.[3] After acquiring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1970s and point guard Magic Johnson in 1979, the club built a team which would win five championships in the 1980s. With the retirement of Johnson and Jabbar, the team struggled in the 1990s. However, in 1996 the club acquired free agent center Shaquille O'Neal and traded with the Charlotte Hornets for newly-drafted shooting guard Kobe Bryant. With the two players maturing under coach Phil Jackson, the club developed into a championship contending team in the late 1990s and early 2000s.[2]

The San Antonio Spurs meanwhile were founded as the Dallas Chaparrals in the ABA in 1967 before moving to San Antonio, Texas and renaming themselves the Spurs in 1973. When the ABA disbanded in 1976 the Spurs were one of four teams absorbed into the NBA. Led by prolific scorer George Gervin, the Spurs experienced regular season success in the 1970s and 1980s, but were unable to advance out of the Western Conference playoffs.[4] After struggling in the latter half of the 1980s, they acquired center David Robinson in the 1987 NBA Draft and the club's fortunes improved.[4] Although they were competitive in the mid 1990s, they were never able to advance to the NBA Finals. In 1997 they acquired power forward Tim Duncan with the first pick in the draft.[4] The 6 ft 11 in Duncan combined with the 7 ft 0 in Robinson to form what was dubbed the "Twin Towers" duo.

Rivalry history

Although the Spurs and Lakers have played each other as members of the NBA's Western Conference since 1981, the clubs are not generally considered to have had a rivalry in the accepted definition of the term until 1999, when the Spurs swept the Lakers en route to the championship.[5] Prior to 1999, their first playoff meetings occurred in 1982 (Lakers 4-0 in Conference Finals), 1983 (Lakers 4-2 in Conference Finals), 1986 (Lakers 3-0 in First Round), 1988 (Lakers 3-0 in First Round) and 1995 (Spurs 4-2 in Conference Semifinals). The rivalry advanced to another level with the Lakers' offseason hiring of former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson before the 1999-2000 season. Jackson had previously commented that the Spurs championship in 1999 should come with an asterisk.[6] Jackson stated this because the championship took place during a lockout-shortened season,[7] and the three-time defending champion Bulls team (which Jackson coached) was dismantled before it was able to defend its 1998 championship.[8]

The following season the Lakers finished with the league's best record,[9] and the Spurs struggled down the stretch after Duncan suffered a knee injury. With Duncan out for the playoffs, the Spurs were defeated 3–1 by the Phoenix Suns in the first round.[10] The Lakers, meanwhile, defeated the Indiana Pacers 4–2 in the NBA Finals[10] to win the club's first championship since 1988. While the Lakers won the championship, there was some speculation that the Lakers would not have advanced to the finals if they had faced the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs. In 2001, the Lakers, having already swept the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, extracted revenge for their 1999 sweep by sweeping the Spurs in the 2001 Western Conference Finals.[11] The series was particularly one-sided, with Los Angeles winning games by 39 and 29 points.[6] The Lakers proceeded to win their second consecutive championship, with a 4–1 series win over the Philadelphia 76ers.[11]. The series was notable because the Lakers won in particularly arrogant fashion as they taunted the Spurs every step of the way.

The two teams faced off again in the 2002 Western Conference Semifinals. Once again, the Lakers prevailed over the Spurs. This time the Lakers won in five games,[12] as the Spurs led each game of the series in the fourth quarter, only to have the Lakers overtake them in four out of five games. The Lakers went on to sweep the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.[12]

In 2003 the Spurs and Lakers faced each other in the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals.[13] This time, the Spurs ended the Lakers' dynasty in six games and went on to beat the back-to-back Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets in the 2003 NBA Finals.[13] One of the crucial moments of the series came when the Lakers' Robert Horry, a well known clutch shooter in game 5, missed a potentially game-winning three-point shot. The miss and the Lakers' eventual series defeat may have been the contributing factors for Horry to join the Spurs as a free agent the following season. With another championship win, David Robinson retired after the season.

In 2004, the teams met again in the Western Conference Semifinals. After the home team won the first four games of the series to set the series at 2–2, the Lakers beat the Spurs in San Antonio in a memorable game 5. With the Spurs down by 1 with 5.4 seconds left, Tim Duncan, who was almost perfectly defended by Shaquille O'Neal, made an off-balance fadeaway 20-footer to take the lead. Only 0.4 seconds remained, the minimum amount of time according to league rules needed to release a shot. After a series of time-outs, Derek Fisher received the inbounds pass from Gary Payton and hit a turn-around 18-footer while falling away. Instant replay showed that the shot had barely left Fisher's fingers when the buzzer rang and thus the Lakers escaped San Antonio with a 1-point victory. The NBA denied a Spurs protest stating that the clock had not started in time. The Lakers went on to win the series, and advance to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Detroit Pistons.

Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in the following offseason, and the Lakers missed the playoffs in 2005. Meanwhile, the Spurs won their third NBA championship over the defending champion Pistons in a long, hard-fought seven-game series. Since then the rivalry has become dormant, as the Lakers, now led by Kobe Bryant, have started anew with a younger nucleus, missing the playoffs in 2005 and losing in the first round in 2006 and 2007. Meanwhile, the Spurs were defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in seven games in the second round of the 2006 playoffs but rebounded in 2007 to win their fourth championship in nine years.

During the 2007–08 season, Kobe Bryant and the rebuilt Lakers reemerged as a championship contender. With the added help of Pau Gasol, a second-half acquisition from the Memphis Grizzlies, the team received the number one playoff seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs received the number three seed. The Lakers once again met the Spurs in the playoffs, in the 2008 Western Conference Finals. In game 1, the Lakers overcame a 20-point 3rd quarter deficit to win 89-85 en route to defeating the defending champions 4 games to 1.

Head to head

The results in brackets concern playoff games.

Season at Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers-Spurs
at San Antonio Spurs
Spurs-Lakers
Total
Lakers-Spurs
1976-77 114-105, 107-102 106-109, 135-103 3-1
1977-78 109-107, 128-114 129-118, 109-105 2-2
1978-79 134-121, 119-111 112-111, 125-112 2-2
1979-80 121-119 121-127 2-0
1980-81 102-108, 135-122, 118-104 112-109, 118-112 2-3
1981-82 136-116, 94-100
(128-117, 110-101)
128-102, 96-117, 110-105
(108-118, 123-128)
2-3
(4-0)
1982-83 119-110, 103-124, 120-132
(119-107, 113-122, 112-117)
117-114, 114-109
(100-113, 121-129, 100-101)
1-4
(4-2)
1983-84 117-124, 143-124 113-108, 98-110, 137-109 2-3
1984-85 119-100, 99-98, 115-114 113-112, 122-108 3-2
1985-86 118-102, 117-109, 124-102
(135-88, 122-94)
116-121, 109-91
(94-114)
4-1
(3-0)
1986-87 111-109, 147-115, 131-121 108-117, 115-103 4-1
1987-88 147-130, 133-115
(122-110, 130-112)
124-133, 132-133, 126-133
(107-109)
5-0
(3-0)
1988-89 126-96, 138-98 122-107, 100-107 3-1
1989-90 132-112, 84-86 106-98, 114-115 2-2
1990-91 97-80, 98-91 110-99, 115-122 3-1
1991-92 98-96, 94-102 103-87, 104-86 1-3
1992-93 92-104, 100-101 101-107, 87-92 2-2
1993-94 89-95, 110-126 94-92, 112-97 0-4
1994-95 115-99, 87-101
(92-85, 71-80, 88-100)
116-102, 107-84
(110-94, 97-90, 96-98)
1-3
(2-4)
1995-96 99-107, 107-97 117-89, 103-100 1-3
1996-97 96-86, 83-94 95-83, 92-99 2-2
1997-98 98-88, 91-84 100-109, 75-99 4-0
1998-99 106-94
(91-103, 107-118)
75-80, 108-81
(87-81, 79-76)
2-1
(0-4)
1999-00 99-93, 80-98 105-81, 103-98 1-3
2000-01 109-100, 89-93
(111-72, 111-82)
91-81, 99-101
(90-104, 81-88)
2-2
(4-0)
2001-02 94-91, 96-95
(86-80, 85-88, 93-87)
81-98, 108-90
(89-99, 85-87)
3-1
(4-1)
2002-03 82-87, 95-103
(110-95, 99-95, 82-110)
95-88, 98-89
(87-82, 114-95, 96-94)
0-4
(2-4)
2003-04 103-87, 89-95
(105-81, 98-90, 88-76)
117-120, 86-90
(88-78, 95-85, 73-74)
3-1
(4-2)
2004-05 96-105, 91-103 100-83, 95-94 0-4
2005-06 96-103, 85-96 90-84, 92-100 1-3
2006-07 106-99, 94-96 96-100 2-1
2007-08 102-97, 106-85
(89-85, 101-71, 100-92)
107-92, 103-91
(103-84, 91-93)
2-2
(4-1)
2008-09 99-85 112-111, 95-102 2-1
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Statistics

Los Angeles Lakers San Antonio Spurs
Total wins 103 84
At Los Angeles Lakers 64 32
At San Antonio Spurs 39 52
Regular season wins 69 66
At Los Angeles Lakers 44 24
At San Antonio Spurs 25 42
Playoff wins 34 18
At Los Angeles Lakers 20 8
At San Antonio Spurs 14 10

See also

References

  1. ^ Aparicio, Ricardo. Glamour vs. Grit: The perfect NBA rivalry, InsideHoops.com, April 23, 2004, accessed April 14, 2007.
  2. ^ a b History of the Lakers, nba.com/lakers, accessed April 18, 2007.
  3. ^ Top 10 Teams in NBA History, nba.com/history, accessed April 17, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c San Antonio Spurs History, nba.com/spurs, accessed April 18, 2007.
  5. ^ San Antonio Spurs 1998-99 Game Log and Scores, databasebasketball.com, accessed April 17, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Deveney, Sean. Team 'tude: the Lakers might not be as good as they were the past three seasons, but they have rediscovered a swagger the Spurs know all too well, The Sporting News, May 12, 2003, accessed April 15, 2007.* Note article has several pages.
  7. ^ Stewart, Sean. Jackson vs. Riley - basketball coaches Phil Jackson and Pat Riley - Brief Article, The Sporting News, May 1 2000, accessed April 18 2007.
  8. ^ Associated Press. No asterisk will smudge this champion, June 8 2000, accessed April 18 2007.
  9. ^ 1999-00 NBA Standings, Stats and Awards, nba.com/history.com, accessed April 17 2007.
  10. ^ a b 2000 Playoff Results, nba.com/history.com, accessed April 17 2007.
  11. ^ a b 2001 Playoff Results, nba.com/history, accessed April 17 2007.
  12. ^ a b 2002 Playoiff Results, nba.com/history.com, accessed April 17, 2007.
  13. ^ a b 2003 Playoff Results, nba.com/history, accessed April 14, 2007.

External links


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