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Spurs complete sweep of Lakers

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES - Manu Ginobili used the pick, sprinted to the rim, lifted his 35-year-old body into the air, and flat-footed Dwight Howard could do nothing but watch.

Ginobili rose for the clean flush, but the Los Angeles Lakers were the ones who went down the toilet, their season ending in dreadful fashion on a dour Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.

The San Antonio Spurs ended Los Angeles' season with a 103-82 victory to claim a 4-0 sweep in their Western Conference playoff quarterfinal series.

San Antonio, which advances to face the winner of the Golden State-Denver series in the second round, stomped all over the decimated and drama-filled Lakers for four games, winning by an average of almost 19 points per game. In a Los Angeles season chock full of losses and lunacy, the last game was little different than the other 85, as much about Lakers' dysfunction as the Spurs' dominance.

"It wasn't a fair fight," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "When you're a competitor, you want to compete on an even-steven basis, and the Lakers weren't able to do that. Having said that, they came to play every night, and the guys who replaced hurt people played their butts off. And the thing I was pleased with about our team is we stayed focused."

San Antonio led by nine less than five minutes into the game, had an 18-point halftime lead and moved in front by as much as 22 in the third quarter as the Lakers' hobbled roster was no match for the Spurs' balance.

By then, Los Angeles was not only without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, but also Dwight Howard.

The harangued center was ejected after picking up his second technical foul with 9:51 left in the third quarter, exiting the game to little hurrah. Bryant then limped out to the floor, on crutches due to his torn Achilles tendon, emerging from the locker room to a standing ovation before taking his seat behind the bench.

"I hate it for him," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Howard. "He gets banged up so much in there. I'm sure he didn't mean to. He takes a pounding, and after a while, I guess his nerves were shot."

Even with Bryant, Howard and Co., the Lakers may not have been able to overcome a Spurs team playing some of its best basketball of the season.

San Antonio forced 21 turnovers and held Los Angeles to 29.4 percent 3-point shooting. The Lakers also hurt their cause with 41.7 percent free-throw shooting.

The Spurs held the Los Angeles backcourt of Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock to 22 points after allowing 44 points in a 31-point win Friday.

Tony Parker had 23 points to lead San Antonio, which had five players in double-figures. Kawhi Leonard and DeJuan Blair added 13 apiece for the Spurs.

San Antonio's bench outscored the Lakers' reserves 41-31 and San Antonio had a 19-4 advantage in fast-break scoring.

"I've been trying to get my rhythm back," said Parker, who missed eight games in March with a sprained ankle. "It feels good to be able to penetrate and do whatever I want. It's been a long time since I was able to play free."

Added Popovich: "We've stretched the bench all year long. The bench has been a big part of this. We've played 10, 11 guys all year. That's nothing new."

Also nothing new, at least for Los Angeles this season: a depleted roster that was down to the barest of bones.

Pau Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Los Angeles. Goudelock had 14 points, and Antawn Jamison added 12 off the bench.

"It's definitely an unfortunate situation with the talent we had here," Jamison said. "But these things do happen. Not so often. It's just unfortunate it happened to this team and this organization with the talent we have."

NOTES: While the Lakers were without a bevy of players, San Antonio was without Tiago Splitter (ankle), Boris Diaw (back) and the recently signed Tracy McGrady. ... San Antonio won the regular-season series 2-1 after also taking two of three from Los Angeles last season. All three regular-season games between the two teams were decided by fewer than six points: two- and three- point Spurs wins and a five-point Lakers home win on April 14. ... The Spurs and Lakers have met in the playoffs 11 times, the most for San Antonio against another opponent. ... Los Angeles have won 38 of 49 first-round series since moving from Minneapolis. ... The Lakers entered the game with an 81 percent playoff home winning percentage since moving to Staples Center. ... Both teams finished the regular season ranked in the top six in the NBA in scoring (San Antonio, fourth, 103 ppg; Los Angeles, sixth, 102.2 ppg) but the Spurs were also ranked in the top 10 in opposing scoring, while the Lakers ranked 24th. ... Duncan is the all-time leader in playoff defensive rebounds with 1,696.

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