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NBA - Playoffs: Lakers take control

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Bryant, named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the first time this month, top-scored with 22 points as the rampant Lakers won their

Bryant, named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the first time this month, top-scored with 22 points as the rampant Lakers won their seventh consecutive home playoff game this postseason.

The All-Star guard also registered five rebounds and five assists while Lamar Odom contributed 20 points and Jordan Farmar 14 from the bench.

Defending NBA champions San Antonio, beaten 89-85 in Game One on Wednesday, fought back from a sluggish start to level the scores at 37-37 early in the second period before being outclassed the rest of the way.

Guard Tony Parker led the Spurs with 13 points and center Tim Duncan added 12 points and 16 rebounds.

The series switches to San Antonio for the next two encounters with Game Three on Sunday.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us," Bryant said of the task facing San Antonio on the road.

"San Antonio, they are going to up the pressure and we saw a little bit of that tonight.

"They're going to try to bring the pressure up full court, take us out of our offence, out of our rhythm. We need to do a better job on our automatics to kind of break down that pressure."

The Spurs boast a perfect 6-0 record at home this post-season but accept they need to improve their all-round game against the confident Lakers.

"There is no comfort being down 0-2 ever," Spurs center Duncan said.

"We are going home and one of two things is going to happen. Either we are going to turn it around and make this thing into a series or we're not.

"We are confident that we are a very good home team but you hate to put yourself in a situation where you are down 0-2. It is what it is and we are going to go home and try and change the tide of it."

Watched by a capacity crowd for Game Two at Staples Center, the top-seeded Lakers made a fast start to forge ahead 21-16 after the opening quarter.

Although the Spurs clawed back to level at 37-37, reserve Sasha Vujacic shot three-of-three from the field as the Lakers countered with a 9-0 run to lead 46-37 at the half.

Bryant, urged on by repeated crowd chants of "MVP, MVP," poured in seven unanswered points to start the third quarter which the dominant Lakers ended with a 74-57 cushion.

A Farmar three-pointer early in the fourth put Los Angeles 20 points up before San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich removed his entire starting five from the court to conserve energy for Game Three.

"You have to give yourself a little bit of credit but know the fact that they missed some open shots and that's just the way it goes sometimes," Lakers center Pau Gasol said after contributing 10 points and seven rebounds.

"Defensively it definitely was the best game that we have had so far but the series doesn't really take one side or the other until one of the teams wins a road game."

 

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