NBA Finals matchups

June 16, 1999|By Jerry Bembry

Point guard

Avery Johnson vs. Charlie Ward: Johnson has done a great job hitting open shots during the playoffs, shooting an impressive 48.3 percent from the field. He has flourished since the Spurs went to the pick-and-roll earlier in the season, and is capable of beating a defender off the dribble. Ward is a starter in name only -- the bulk of the important minutes will go to Chris Childs, a solid defender who also hit several big three-pointers in the Indiana series.

Edge: Spurs

Shooting guard

Mario Elie vs. Allan Houston: Elie provides a toughness that the Spurs had lacked in the past. He plays aggressive defense, which will be necessary against Houston, who -- when hot -- is difficult to guard.

Edge: Knicks

Small forward

Sean Elliott vs. Latrell Sprewell: For Sprewell to be successful, the Knicks will have to fast break. A structured, half-court offense poses more of a struggle. Elliott has shot the ball well from the perimeter.

Edge: Knicks

Power forward

Tim Duncan vs. Kurt Thomas: Duncan is the league's best player, and has proved that during the Spurs' postseason. Thomas is a decent talent, but seems to devote much of his energy to thuggish action. Thomas starts because of the injury to Larry Johnson.

Advantage: Spurs

Center

David Robinson vs. Chris Dudley: The Admiral has found new life in the playoffs, after playing a secondary role during San Antonio's regular season. Dudley will have to avoid foul trouble.

Advantage: Spurs

Bench

Jackson, Rose, Kersey vs. Camby, Childs: Jaren Jackson (above left), Malik Rose and Jerome Kersey have played well off San Antonio's bench. But they will have their hands full against a New York bench that features Marcus Camby (above right) and Childs.

Advantage: New York.

Coaches

Gregg Popovich vs. Jeff Van Gundy: Give the Spurs' Popovich credit for excelling with a twin tower concept that has failed many times in the past, and Van Gundy credit for adjusting without Patrick Ewing. Both have come under fire this season.

Advantage: Even

Keys to victory

What the Spurs must do: That Duncan and Robinson will dominate the front line is a given. To win, players like Elliott, Elie and Johnson have to play big.

What the Knicks must do: New York needs to play fast-break basketball, which means the Knicks must control the defensive boards. Neither Sprewell nor Houston can afford an off game.

Prediction: For most, picking San Antonio is a no-brainer. After having my sanity questioned for picking the Knicks in six in the Indiana series, I am picking New York in seven.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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