Was he or wasn’t he fouled?
That’s big the question after a controversial finish to game four of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.
In what looked like a Laker drubbing as late as the fourth, the Spurs rallied late and very nearly sent the game into overtime.
A 7-0 run late in the fourth gave the Lakers an eight-point lead – after the Spurs blew two chances to tie the game at 81. After those misses, and that Laker run, the Spurs seemed toast. They called timeout, collected themselves and made a game of it.
It started quietly - Brent Barry hit a three, Tim Duncan made a layup; the lead was then six, with just over two minutes to play. Lamar Odom missed a free throw and Sasha Vijacic missed a jumper – but Parker hits a two.
The Spurs would hit two more shots and close the gap to two points – 93-91 - with 28 seconds left.
But they couldn’t get over the hump. The Lakers ran the clock down, and even with two misses in a row, they had cut the time to just under three seconds, making life difficult for the Spurs.
But it wasn’t over yet. Brent Barry found the ball in his hands some 27 feet found the basket and he let the potential game-winner go… and he missed.
And although he thought Derek Fisher fouled him – Fisher appeared to make contact as he went for a pump fake on TNT’s replay – there was no call, and that was the ballgame. Lakers win, 93-91.
It was a game that was tightly contested all night, even if the Spurs never led. The Lakers exploded out of the gate, leading by as many as 14 in the first quarter. But the Spurs hit back, going on a 15-6 run to cut the lead to five after the 12 minutes of play.
As the game neared halftime, the Spurs tied it up as 45 on a Duncan jumper, but couldn’t capitalize, and the half ended with a six point Laker lead. Once again, the Spurs rallied at the end of the third – but the Lakers held tough, and went into the fourth with a 77-70 lead.
Even though Kobe Bryant had a great game – 28 points, 10 rebounds – it was Pau Gasol that was the spark for the Lakers offense, which seems to work at it’s peak when it runs through him. He had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on the night.
But give the Spurs credit; they fought at the end, making the Lakers fight for their points.. Both Tim Duncan and Berry had monster nights, Duncan with 29 points, 9 of 11 from the charity stripe and 14 boards, while Barry exploded for 23 and 5. Of course, Duncan played monster time – 45 minutes
With this win, and the no-call, the Lakers take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. They go back to their home floor, where they haven’t lost a game in these playoffs. Come Friday, the Mamba could find himself in the NBA Finals, not a year after he wanted to be traded.
Sure, if the Spurs had gotten the call, this series would be taking radically different shape. But that’s the breaks of the game.