NBA playoffs

May 29, 1999|By Jerry Bembry

Western Conference finals

No. 1 San Antonio (37-13) vs. No. 2 Portland (35-15)

Playoff record: San Antonio 7-1 (beat Minnesota, 3-1; swept Los Angeles Lakers, 4-0). Portland 7-2 (swept Phoenix, 3-0; beat Utah, 4-2).

Season series: San Antonio, 3-1 (Portland, 90-85, on 3/19; San Antonio, 81-80, on 4/16; San Antonio, 98-90, on 5/1; San Antonio, 87-81, on 5/4).

Last conference finals appearance: San Antonio appeared in 1995, where the Spurs lost to Houston, 4-2. Portland appeared in 1992 beating Utah, 4-2, to reach the NBA Finals (where it lost to the Chicago Bulls)

Key players (averages are for postseason games): San Antonio -- Tim Duncan (23.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.5 bpg); David Robinson (14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg); Avery Johnson (15.1 ppg, 7.5 apg). Portland -- Isaiah Rider (19.6 ppg); Brian Grant (15.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg), Rasheed Wallace (12.6 ppg).

Key matchups: Brian Grant against Tim Duncan, a matchup where Duncan can't allow himself to get pushed off the low block. Portland will be forced to double-team the NBA's best low-post player. And Arvydas Sabonis against David Robinson, where the Spurs center should be able to use quickness to his advantage.

What San Antonio has to do to win: Continue to get contributions from role players like Jaren Jackson and Mario Elie, who will likely be left open with the Blazers' double on Duncan.

What Portland has to do to win: Use its depth to its advantage, and attempt to get either Duncan or Robinson into foul trouble. That will mean Grant, Sabonis and Wallace will have to be aggressive going to the basket.

Intangibles: Brian Grant struggled offensively over his last two games in the Utah series, and also struggled offensively in four games this season against the Spurs, averaging just 7.2 points and failing to score in double figures. Standing 6 feet 9, he has a size disadvantage, although he will have to overcome that and be more effective to beat a San Antonio team that has home-court advantage.

Prediction: San Antonio in seven.

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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