LOS ANGELES — 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 last 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 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.
In other games last night the defending champions Miami Heat completed an easy 4-0 sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks with an 88-77 victory; Boston Celtics pulled a game back at home with a 97-90 victory over the New York Knicks who lead the series 3-1; Golden State Warriors defeated Denver Nuggets 115-101 to take a 3-1 lead.