The reign of the San Antonio Spurs is over after the Lakers mounted a furious rally from 17 points down to win 100-92. The victory not only eliminated the Spurs four games to one, but sent L.A. to their first NBA Finals in four seasons.
After the game, Coach Jackson made sure to congratulate the Spurs for a noble attempt at defending their championship trophy.
“First of all, let me say a heartfelt congratulations to the Spurs for their run this season,” said Jackson. “They put a lot of dedication into it. I know how difficult it is when you have gone through the duration of seasons they’ve had to keep that energy going.”
Although Jackson played Kobe more minutes than he would have liked, the Lakers needed every one of the MVP’s game-high 39 points.
“Well, I think it really is a very victorious point in time,” said Jackson. “I say that the short faze of this is a fleeting moment, winning a series, and told them to enjoy it for the evening, for Kobe especially.”
Kobe said that this Lakers team has shown a lot of character during their playoff run, coming back from 17 point-plus deficits twice in five games against San Antonio.
“I think it shows maturity for a young team to be patient and not think that the game is over or to try to get it al back in one play,” said Bryant. “We just stuck to it and got the game back.”
Jackson said that the key to the game was the Lakers’ ability to sustain the momentum they had in cutting the Spurs’ lead to just six point at halftime. He also praised the bench effort by the Lakers, led by nine points from Vujacic and eight from Farmar.
“We have to give our bench a lot of credit for it,” said the Lakers coach. “They came in with enthusiasm and picked up the tempo and the energy that they put out there on the floor and kind of carried over to the players when they came back out there at the end of the second period.”
Although the team is ecstatic to be advancing to the NBA Finals, Jackson cautioned the team against putting too much weight on winning the Western crown.
“…As I told my players tonight, there’s nothing like losing in the finals for a negative feeling about a year after you’ve played as well as you’ve played, not to finish the job up,” Jackson said. “As much as I appreciate the league trying to emphasize the Western Conference trophy, that doesn’t mean, you know, too much when that big prize is still out there.”
Jackson said that the Lakers hold both of their potential NBA Finals opponents–the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons–with the utmost respect.
“We have a very experienced team and obviously the two opponents still sitting in the Eastern Conference, one represents an experienced team in Detroit and the other represents a team with experienced superstars and a lot of inexperienced players that are are supporting players behind them,” said Jackson.