Although the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the Western Conference since 1981, they weren't considered rivals until 1999, when the Spurs swept the Lakers 4–0 to the title. They had met in the 1982, 1983, 1986, 1988, and 1995 NBA Playoffs. The rivalry intensified with the Lakers' offseason hiring of former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson before the 1999-2000 season. Jackson had previously commented that the Spurs title in 1999 should come with an asterisk. Jackson stated this because the title took place during a lockout-shortened season, and the three-time defending champion Bulls team (which Jackson coached) was dismantled before it was able to defend its 1998 title.
The following season the Lakers finished with the league's best record, and the Spurs struggled down the stretch after Duncan suffered a knee injury. With Duncan out for the playoffs, the Spurs were defeated 3–1 by the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Lakers, meanwhile, defeated the Indiana Pacers 4–2 in the NBA Finals to win the club's first title since 1988. While the Lakers won the title, there was speculation that the Lakers would not have advanced to the Finals if they had faced the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs. In 2001, the Lakers, having swept the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, extracted revenge for their 1999 sweep by sweeping the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The series was very one-sided, with L.A. winning games by 39 and 29 points. They then won their 2nd straight title over the Philadelphia 76ers 4–1.
The teams faced off again in the 2002 Western Conference Semifinals. Again, the Lakers beat the Spurs. This time the Lakers won 4–1, as the Spurs led each game of the series going into the fourth quarter, but won just once. The Lakers went on to sweep the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.
The next year, they played in the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals. This time, the Spurs ended the Lakers' dynasty in 6 and went on to beat the back-to-back Eastern Conference Champion Nets in the 2003 NBA Finals. One of the series' crucial moments came when the Lakers' Robert Horry, a well known clutch shooter, missed a potential game-winning 3 in Game 5. With another title won, David Robinson retired after the season.
In 2004, the teams met again in the Western Conference Semifinals. After the home team won the first 4 games to set the series at 2, the Lakers beat San Antonio on the road in a memorable Game 5. With the Spurs down 72–71 with 5.4 seconds left, Duncan was almost perfectly defended by Shaq and still made an off-balance fadeaway 20-footer to take a 73–72 lead with 0.4 seconds left. After a few timeouts, Derek Fisher received the inbounds pass from Gary Payton and hit a turn-around 18-footer while falling away. Instant replay showed the ball left Fisher's hands with 0.1 seconds left, thus the Lakers escaped with a 74–73 victory. The NBA denied a Spurs protest stating that the clock did not start in time. The Lakers went on to win the series, and advance to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Detroit Pistons.
O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in the following offseason, and the Lakers missed the playoffs in 2005. Meanwhile, the Spurs won their third NBA Championship over the defending Champion Pistons in a long, hard-fought 7-game series. The rivalry became dormant, as the Bryant-led Lakers started anew with a younger nucleus that lost in the first round in 2006 and 2007. Meanwhile, the Spurs were defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals 4–3, but rebounded in 2007 to win their 4th Title in 9 years.
During the 2007–08 season, Bryant and the rebuilt Lakers reemerged as a contender. With the added help of Pau Gasol, a second-half acquisition from the Memphis Grizzlies, the team received the #1 seed in the West. The Spurs received the #3 seed. They met again in the 2008 Western Conference Finals. In Game 1, the Lakers overcame a 20-point 3rd quarter deficit to win 89-85 en route to defeating the defending Champions 4–1.
In the 2008–09 season, they did not meet in the playoffs. The Spurs were eliminated for the first time in the first round since the 1999–2000 season, while the Lakers went on to win the NBA Championship against the Orlando Magic.
The 2011 Playoffs was the first time since 2006 that neither appeared in the Western Conference Finals and for only the second time since 1999, neither team made the NBA Finals.
A new rivalry was formed with the arrival of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Lakers in 2012. Nash was acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix, while Howard was acquired in a blockbuster trade from Orlando Magic that also involved the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets. In their first game of the 2012-13 season, Danny Green hit a game-winner for the Spurs to win 84-82.
Read more about this topic: Lakers–Spurs Rivalry
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