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Four teams close in on series titles

The second round of the NBA playoffs is almost over. All that's needed to determine the final four is one more victory apiece from the Lakers, Kings, Celtics and Nets.

Los Angeles, Boston and New Jersey took 3-1 leads in their conference semifinals Sunday. Sacramento went ahead 3-1 a day earlier with an impressive comeback in a 115-113 victory over Dallas in overtime.

Kobe Bryant took over down the stretch again for the Lakers, who rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes to defeat San Antonio 87-85.

It was the only close game of the day.

Earlier, Jason Kidd outplayed Baron Davis down the stretch again as the Nets defeated Charlotte 89-79, and Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce were too much of a one-two combination as the Celtics downed the Detroit Pistons 90-79.

Game 5 of the Dallas-Sacramento series is Monday night at Arco Arena, and the Spurs-Lakers and Celtics-Pistons series resume Tuesday. Game 5 of the Charlotte-New Jersey series is Wednesday night.


Lakers 87, Spurs 85

At San Antonio, Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his 28 points in the final period, including a pair of key 3-pointers and a go-ahead putback with five seconds remaining.

''I've dreamed of these situations countless times as a kid, and I still dream of them today,'' he said.

San Antonio did not make a field goal after Bruce Bowen hit a 3-pointer with 6:56 left. Tim Duncan made two free throws with 6:15 left, but the Spurs managed a grand total of one point over the remainder of the game.

The Spurs ended the game ineptly when Terry Porter fell after receiving an inbounds pass with 3.2 seconds left, then got the ball to Duncan for an airball from 20 feet.

''We had five or six shots that were either ill-advised or not shot with confidence,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Shaquille O'Neal added 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Robert Horry contributed 13 points. The Lakers have won a record 11 straight playoff games on the road, and this victory gave them a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

Nets 89, Hornets 79

At Charlotte, Jason Kidd's right eye was swollen, bruised and bandaged, but he scored 24 points and made eight free throws in the fourth quarter.

The game may have been the last for the Hornets in Charlotte. The team is relocating to New Orleans next season, and the 13,864 fans -- more than 6,000 short of capacity -- gave the players a standing ovation as the game wound down. The fans crowded the tunnel, applauding the players as the Hornets ran to the locker room.

''I'm confident we can still win the series,'' said guard Baron Davis, who led the Hornets with 20 points but went just 9-for-17 on free throws.

Kerry Kittles had 20 points and Keith Van Horn added 16 for the Nets, who have never been to the conference finals since joining the NBA.

Celtics 90, Pistons 79

At Boston, Walker had 22 of his 30 points in the first half and Paul Pierce had 23 of his 25 in the second half. Pierce also had a career-high 17 rebounds.

The Celtics took control by scoring 12 consecutive points to start the third quarter -- more than they had in the entire third period in Game 3 when the teams combined for a record-low 130 points.

With Bill Russell, Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy watching, Boston took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Winners of an NBA record 16 titles, the Celtics have never blown a 3-1 lead in the playoffs.

Jerry Stackhouse hit a 3-pointer to pull the Pistons within seven points with 4:46 left. But the Celtics went on a 7-1 run, with Walker getting four points and Pierce three, to make it 85-72 with 2:40 left.


Kings 115, Mavericks 113, OT

At Dallas, Mike Bibby scored the overtime-forcing and game-winning baskets after Bobby Jackson put Sacramento in position for the comeback.

Jackson scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, and Bibby scored on a drive with 12.2 seconds left in overtime. Jackson filled in for injured All-Star Peja Stojakovic, who didn't play after severely spraining his right ankle in Game 3 on Thursday.

Dirk Nowitzki, who had 31 points and 12 rebounds after being held in check the first three games of the series, drove hard into the lane but missed a potential game-tying shot with 2.5 seconds left. Jim Walker/The Ironton Tribune