Spurs put Knicks in 2-0 hole

New York falls, 80-67

Duncan dominates with 25 points, 15 rebounds

June 19, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO -- There's a popular advertisement airing on television stations here, a spot that points out a difference between New York and San Antonio. The punch line: We Sweep. Regularly.

Well, the San Antonio Spurs will get an opportunity to bring their brooms to New York after beating the New York Knicks, 80-67, last night before 39,554 at the Alamodome.

With the win, the Spurs took a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series, with the next three games to be played in New York starting Monday. San Antonio had swept two straight series going into the Finals and has won 12 straight playoff games, an NBA record for consecutive playoff wins in one season.

Only Chris Childs' layup before the final buzzer prevented it from tying the lowest-scoring game in NBA Finals history. The teams combined to score 147 points, barely surpassing the 145 scored by Syracuse and Fort Wayne during the 1955 Finals.

Again, the game was determined by which team took better advantage of its strength. For the second straight game, San Antonio's twin-tower tandem of Tim Duncan and David Robinson dominated. Duncan had 25 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Robinson took only eight shots, but his final line was equally impressive: 16 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and four assists.

Their biggest presence was defensively, as the two blocked or altered numerous shots. At one stretch from the end of the first quarter to the start of the second quarter, the Knicks missed 18 of 19 shots. A lot of those misses were on layup or dunk attempts, with most seemingly due to the Knicks thinking about Duncan and Robinson.

"That's the reason why they lead the league in field-goal percentage [defense]," said New York coach Jeff Van Gundy. "They do it with great lane intimidation, as far as making each shot in the paint difficult. Nothing comes easy with those two guys in there."

As poorly as the Knicks shot (32.9 percent), they were still in the game in the fourth quarter trailing 65-57 after two free throws by Latrell Sprewell with 7: 55 left. But the Knicks went through a span of 5: 34 when they failed to score a point, which sealed their fate.

The 67 points were the second-fewest by a team in NBA Finals history (Utah scored 54 in a loss to Chicago during last year's Finals).

"I think it's tough for them because not only is Pat [Ewing] down and [Larry Johnson] is a little hobbled, but Chris Dudley's a little hurt," Duncan said. "It's got to be tough for them because our size is so much more than theirs. And we're a little deeper than they are."

And a little more in sync offensively. While the Spurs appeared a bit more patient in working the ball to the open man, the Knicks played a lot of one-on-one. The result: Latrell Sprewell scored 26 points, but was just 8-for-22 from the field. Johnson hit his first field goal but missed 11 of his next 12 shots to finish with five points. Allan Houston shot 9-for-20 for 19 points, and outside of Charlie Ward's 2-for-3 shooting, no New York player hit more than half of his shots.

"We need our main three guys to be efficient offensively," Van Gundy said, referring to Houston, Sprewell and Johnson. "I thought in stretches we got very good shots and missed point-blank shots at the basket. Other times, we were trying to squeeze it ourselves instead of one more drive, one more kick, one more pick-and-roll, whatever it may take to create a better shot."

The poor effort on offense wasted what was for the most part a solid defensive game by the Knicks, who did a good job running double teams at the post when Robinson and Duncan received the ball.

"I didn't get as easy looks as I did [in Game 1]," Duncan said. "They were playing a lot better, and a lot more aggressive."

New York also took away San Antonio's outside game, as the Spurs hit just two three-pointers. Jaren Jackson scored 17 points in Game 1, hitting five three-pointers. Last night, he hit just one of five shots, the only made shot a three-pointer in the final seconds.

The beginning of the end may have come at the end of the third quarter, when the Knicks -- despite their poor shooting -- trailed by just 52-49 after a jumper by Houston with 2: 41 left. With a chance to tie the game or get within a point, Marcus Camby, Sprewell and Houston all missed shots.

With 2.5 seconds left, Sean Elliott drove the baseline and scored on a layup, getting fouled in the process. Elliott missed the free throw, but Duncan grabbed the rebound and scored on a layup just before the buzzer to give the Spurs a 56-49 lead going into the final quarter. The Spurs didn't have an offensive rebound in the first half.

"They were trying to box me and we were kind of talking to the referee. I kind of took off before they could see and luckily the ball bounced my way and I tapped it in there," Duncan said. "That was a big play for us. Just kind of a heart-breaker at that point."

The Knicks collapsed in the fourth, hitting the long scoring drought as well as committing seven of their 10 turnovers.

"We definitely are upset with ourselves," Camby said. "We felt we could come in here and get this one. We put a lot of emphasis on defense, went out there and played exceptionally hard.

"Guys on this team have a lot of pride," Camby added. "We don't want to get swept, and I don't think that's going to happen."

NBA Finals

San Antonio vs. New York (San Ant. leads series 2-0)

Game 1: S.A. 89, N.Y. 77

Last night: S.A. 80, N.Y. 67

Monday: at New York, 9

Wednesday: at New York, 9

Friday: at New York, 9*

June 27: at San Ant., 7: 30*

June 29: at San Antonio, 9*

*-If necessary

TV: Chs. 11, 4

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