LOS ANGELES Lakers guard Kobe Bryant rates reaching this year’s NBA Finals among his greatest achievements.
Bryant scored 26 of his 39 points in the second half as the Los Angeles Lakers advanced with a 100-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in game five of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.
Pau Gasol collected 12 points and 19 rebounds for the Lakers, who reached the championship series for the first time since 2004, when they lost to the Detroit Pistons.
Los Angeles won three straight titles behind Bryant and centre Shaquille O’Neal earlier in the decade.
But the Lakers had a tough road to the finals this season after navigating through one of the most competitive conferences in NBA history.
“I think it is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Bryant, who was nearly traded prior to the season.
Lamar Odom had 13 points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles, who trailed by 17 points in the first half.
Defending champions San Antonio were still steaming from a controversial home loss in game four. On the game’s final possession, the referees failed to call a foul on Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who elbowed the Spurs’ Brent Barry in the head as he put the ball on the floor while trying to shake free for a potential game-winning three-pointer.
The NBA issued an apology for the missed call on Wednesday.
Los Angeles will face either the Pistons or Boston Celtics, who lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals, 3-2, with game six in Detroit early today.
The Lakers and Celtics have not met in the Finals since 1987, which ended with the fourth title of the decade for Los Angeles, who added their final championship of the decade the next season.
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