Spurs sweep Blazers, make 1st Finals trip

San Antonio earns 10th win in row, 94-80

June 07, 1999|By NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

PORTLAND, Ore. -- No contest.

Then again, it's been all one-sided for the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. They're clearly the best team in the NBA right now. And they're making a strong case that they're one of the best in recent years, too. With relative ease, they recorded their second straight sweep, blowing out the Portland Trail Blazers, 94-80, last night at the Rose Garden to make their first trip to the NBA Finals.

"What's it going to take to beat them?" asked Portland's Brian Grant. "It's going to take a lot. Whoever plays them is going to have to come out with some secret weapons. I don't know if anyone can, at this point."

The Blazers certainly weren't any match for the Spurs, who started the season at 6-8 but now have won 42 of their past 48 games.

"I was never worried when we were 6-8," said Spurs owner Peter Holt. "For 26 years, we've been trying to get here and now we're here. It's beautiful."

It's also a little scary how overwhelming the Spurs have become. They're the first team to record sweeps in the conference semis and finals since the 1989 Los Angeles Lakers and only the third team in history to accomplish the feat. Their run of 10 straight playoff victories is one shy of the NBA record, set by that same Lakers team. Even the 1996 Bulls, the team that ignited a debate as to whether they were the best ever, won "only" nine straight.

Whether it's the New York Knicks or Indiana Pacers, the Spurs expect to break the Lakers' mark. Perhaps that's why their celebration was subdued. David Robinson, much maligned in his first nine seasons as a player who could put up great stats but would never get a ring, did the talking.

"There's four more wins we need," he told his teammates, with a large 4 adorning the blackboard. "There's more work to be done."

Ever since losing to Minnesota in the second game of the first round, they've been making short work of everyone.

"Right now, we can't be beat," said Mario Elie, a veteran of Houston's championship teams. "We swept two of the greatest teams in the NBA this season, in the Blazers and Lakers. They were very talented. But unity and chemistry beats talent all the time. We're always on the same page."

It also doesn't hurt to have Robinson and Tim Duncan, who combined for 38 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. This was still very much a game at the start of the fourth period. The Blazers, who quit in Game 3, cut the Spurs' lead to 64-63. But in a span of only 6: 30, the Spurs scored on 10 of their next 12 possessions, working off Portland's double teams of Duncan and hitting all their outside shots. When the Blazers looked up, they were down, 86-71, and out.

Robinson had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Duncan, who had just five points in Game 3, had 18 points and eight rebounds in Game 4. Sean Elliott scored 16. Avery Johnson, the point guard Damon Stoudamire said would never lead a team to a championship, had 15 points and six assists.

Stoudamire, 1-for-12 in Portland's embarrassing 85-63 loss Friday night, was 9-for-13 for 21 points. Rasheed Wallace, the Blazers' lone consistent offensive threat in the series scored 17, and Isaiah Rider had 12.

The Spurs beat the Blazers for the seventh straight time. Of Portland's five home losses, three were to San Antonio.

The Spurs now return home to await the outcome of the Eastern Conference finals. New York leads Indiana 2-1 in that series.

Unlike Portland's lousy Game 3, the Blazers gave their best shot yesterday.

"It was mainly what they did, rather than what we didn't do," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They're a better team, and that's all there is to it."

San Antonio is the first of the four old ABA teams to make it to the NBA Finals. Indiana could join it if the Pacers beat the Knicks.

Portland trailed nearly all of the first half but the Blazers did not roll over and die.

Trailing 48-36 on Elliott's three-pointer with 10: 24 to go in the third quarter, Portland came back with a 14-4 run.

Grant's 16-footer from the baseline cut the lead to 52-50 with 6: 16 left in the quarter. Wallace's three-point play got Portland within 56-55 with 4: 01 to play in the third and Stoudamire's drive up the lane with 1: 35 to play put the Blazers ahead 59-58.

But Duncan's three-point play on a rebound basket, which drew Grant's fourth foul, put San Antonio ahead for good, 61-59, with 1: 21 to go in the third.

The Blazers twice cut the lead to one early in the fourth quarter, the last time at 64-63 on Rider's two free throws with 11: 03 to play. Duncan's three-point play started the decisive run. Elliott followed with a three-point play, then Duncan stuffed it on a lob from Jackson to make it 72-63 with 9: 52 to go.

The Spurs led by as many as 19 points in the final minutes.

"I don't know if anybody can beat them now," Rider said. "Not to be rude, but it's not my problem."

No matter whose problem it turns out to be, it's already officially a big one.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Sharp Spurs

Yesterday's victory gave the San Antonio Spurs their first berth in the NBA Finals and an 11-1 record in this year's playoffs:

Round Opp. Series

First Minnesota 3-1

West semi. L.A. Lakers 4-0

West final Portland 4-0

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