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04/28/2013 10:54 PM EDT
Spurs finish 4-game sweep, routing Lakers 103-82
SAN ANTONIO 103, LA LAKERS 82

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For four straight games, the San Antonio
Spurs showed off all the teamwork and tenacity that the Los
Angeles Lakers lacked all season long.



And when the Lakers' tumultuous season finally collapsed Sunday
night, the smooth Spurs rolled right past them to the second
round.



Tony Parker scored 23 points, and San Antonio completed its
first-round sweep of the injury-plagued Lakers with a 103-82
victory in Game 4.



Tim Duncan had 11 points and six rebounds for the second-seeded
Spurs, who will face the winner of Denver's series with Golden
State in the second round. They'll get plenty of rest after
flattening the Lakers, who staggered through back-to-back
blowout losses at home without three regular starters in their
first opening-round exit since 2007.



"Obviously, it wasn't a fair fight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
said. "When you're a competitor, you want to compete on an even
basis, and the Lakers weren't able to do that. ... Even though
it wasn't a fair fight, we still want to win the series, and I'm
glad we did. Our focus was great."



San Antonio never trailed in the clincher, leading by 25 points
in one more businesslike effort against the seventh-seeded
Lakers, who provided their usual drama right down to their last
gasp.



In his final game before unrestricted free agency, Dwight Howard
scored seven points before getting ejected early in the third
quarter for arguing. Pau Gasol had 16 points for the Lakers, who
were swept from the postseason for the second time in three
years despite a late courtside appearance by Kobe Bryant on
crutches.



"It was just a weird feeling," Parker said. "Obviously, I am
happy we won, but it was just weird. They were missing a lot of
guys, so we're just happy to go to the next round."



Howard said the season was "like a nightmare. It's like a bad
dream, and we just couldn't wake up from it. That's what it felt
like."



The Los Angeles Lakers gave away thousands of white towels to
their fans Sunday, and they acquired an unfortunate symbolism:
In the final game of a season that began with championship
aspirations, the Lakers couldn't keep up without injured
starters Bryant, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. They had just
nine available players in uniform for the final minutes.



"I'm proud of them, because they fought," Lakers coach Mike
D'Antoni said. "It was kind of a year that was all upside-down,
but I appreciate the effort to get us into the playoffs. We just
didn't have it."



After Duncan led the Spurs' blowout in Game 3, Parker took the
lead in the clincher, scoring 15 points in the first half while
exploiting the Lakers' hastily assembled backcourt. Los Angeles'
top four guards are out with injuries, including backups Steve
Blake and Jodie Meeks, and Parker was merciless against
third-stringers.



"What I was pleased about our team was that we kept our focus
every night," Popovich said. "We played hard, followed the game
plan and were very active and energetic every night, and
sometimes that's hard to do when your opponent is wounded."



Kawhi Leonard and DeJuan Blair added 13 points apiece in the
Spurs' balanced scoring effort. San Antonio trailed for fewer
than five combined minutes in the four-game series, grinding out
points and defensive stops with the steady professionalism of
Popovich's best teams.



"This is a good start for us," Duncan said. "We like the pace
we're at right now. We like the rhythm we're at right now, and
how healthy we are right now. Hopefully it can stay that way."



After an unimpressive game featuring just two field goal
attempts in 20 minutes, Howard was tossed with 9:51 left in the
third quarter for his second technical foul. The All-Star
center, furious with the Spurs' unpunished physical play, yelled
a few parting words at the court after walking past general
manager Mitch Kupchak in the tunnel to the locker room.



"I hate it for him," D'Antoni said, lamenting the lack of foul
calls against players guarding Howard. "He gets banged up so
much in there that I'm sure he didn't mean to (get ejected), but
he takes a pounding, and after a while, I guess his nerves were
shot."



Moments later, Bryant got the solemn Staples Center crowd on its
feet when he hobbled out of the tunnel to a seat behind the
Lakers' bench, making his first appearance at courtside since
tearing his Achilles tendon 16 days ago. Bryant, who might not
be healthy by the start of next season, repeatedly yelled
instructions and encouragement at the Lakers' young backcourt,
Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, and fill-in starter Earl
Clark.



The 16-time NBA champion Lakers had high hopes for this season
after landing Howard and Nash to play alongside Bryant and
Gasol, but their hopes disappeared in an avalanche of injuries,
losing streaks and turmoil.



There's almost no turbulence around the Spurs, who seamlessly
replaced injured starting center Tiago Splitter in Game 4 with
Australian rookie Aron Baynes, who had six points and played
decent defense in his first NBA start.



The Spurs had control of this series from the start: They posted
two methodical victories at home before sending the Lakers to
their biggest home playoff defeat in their long franchise
history in Game 3, 120-89. The clincher was more of the same,
with the Lakers unable to mount enough teamwork to challenge the
smooth Spurs.



The Spurs have swept three of their last four playoff series,
winning every game in the first two rounds last season before
losing in six games to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference
finals. San Antonio is in the second round of the postseason for
the fourth time in six seasons since their last championship in
2007.



NOTES: Gasol got a standing ovation when he left the game with
3:08 to play. The two-time NBA champion has one year left on his
contract with the Lakers, but could be a trade chip in the
Lakers' rebuild. ... Splitter has a sprained ankle and is out
indefinitely, although his teammates think he can return during
the second round. F Boris Diaw practiced with contact this
weekend in his comeback from a back injury. ... The Lakers faced
an 0-3 series deficit for the eighth time in franchise history -
and for the eighth time, they were swept. ... Jack Nicholson and
Lil Wayne watched at courtside, but both left early in the
fourth quarter.

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