Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers dispatched the defending champions, and are headed to the NBA finals for the first time in four years.


Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers dispatched the defending champions, and are headed to the NBA finals for the first time in four years.
Bryant scored 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers rallied from an early 17-point deficit to beat the San Antonio Spurs 100-92 on Thursday night and win the Western Conference finals in five games.
The Lakers are 12-3 in the playoffs, including 8-0 at Staples Center, where they haven’t lost in two months. They have won 14 straight home games and 21 of their last 24 postseason games at home.
They get a week off before opening the NBA finals next Thursday night at Boston or Detroit. The Celtics lead the Eastern Conference finals 3-2 with Game 6 on Friday night.
A basket by Lamar Odom gave the Lakers an 83-76 lead with 5:40 remaining, but a 3-pointer by Brent Barry and a basket by Tony Parker drew the Spurs within two points. Manu Ginobili missed a 3-pointer that could have given San Antonio the lead before Bryant’s jumper with 3:33 to play made it 85-81.
A foul shot by Duncan drew the Spurs within three, but two more baskets by Bryant made it 89-82 with 1:47 to play, and the Spurs weren’t closer than five points after that.
Odom added 13 points and eight rebounds, while Pau Gasol had 12 points, a career playoff-high 19 rebounds and five assists for the Lakers.
Parker scored 23 points and Tim Duncan had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists for the Spurs. Michael Finley scored 13 points, Barry and Kurt Thomas added 11 each and Ginobili was held to nine, shooting just 3-for-9.
The Lakers clinched their berth in the finals a year to the day after Bryant called the team’s front office “a mess” during a radio interview. A day later, he demanded a trade, ultimately saying he preferred playing on Pluto rather than returning to the team he joined as an 18-year-old in 1996.