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Kobe Bryant

Do you hear that? It sounds like the death knell is ringing for the San Antonio Spurs and their NBA World Championship designation. After an odd ending that saw two potential blown calls — both involving Derek Fisher — the Lakers beat the Spurs, 93-91, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead back to Los Angeles for Game 5.

While the ending of the game is what everyone will be talking about, the Spurs aren’t putting this loss on the refs, at least in the view of the public. To say they’ve squandered opportunities to win in two of the three games they’ve lost is an understatement. In Game 1, the Spurs blew a 20-point lead and last night, they gave the Lakers a number of second-chance opportunities by giving up 13 offensive rebounds.

So while these missed calls at the end did play a part, the Spurs were losing to the Lakers for a reason, and it wasn’t just Kobe. Yes, Bryant was his normally-brilliant self, but the Spurs did a good job of making him earn his points from the floor instead of the free-throw line. Another reason for the Spurs loss — ZERO points from Michael Finley, Fabricio Oberto, Ime Udoka, while only getting 7 points from Manu Ginobili.

Add all of the above together and this is what you get — the Los Angeles Lakers with a hard-to-overcome 3-1 lead over the defending champs. Game 5 is Thursday night. Will it be the last game of the season for the Spurs? When you consider this stat from ESPN Research:

The Spurs have lost seven of eight and 17 of their last 25 playoff games against the Lakers.

It does seem like the end is near. Too bad the Spurs wasted such mighty performances from Tim Duncan, who’s averaging 23 points and 18 rebounds for the series.