A Finals frenzy
Favored Spurs have hometown in a partying mood
Posted: Tuesday June 15, 1999 09:04 PM
While Tim Duncan and several other Spurs have never been to the Finals, Mario Elie brings the experience of two Rockets' titles. AP
Half full, half empty | Storylines | The Bandwagon
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
This is a special NBA Finals edition of “The NBA at a Glance.” Check
back every day until the Finals are decided for a new glance.
SAN ANTONIO -- You can crunch the numbers and page through all the sports
history books you want.
It still boggles the mind, in the grand scheme of the NBA as we’ve known
The San Antonio Spurs,
an old ABA team, tip off Wednesday night in the NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs. In the NBA Finals.
As favorites, even.
This is indeed a whole new NBA.
”This team really has no weaknesses, which is why they've won 10 playoff
games in a row,” New York
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said of the Spurs, “which is unheard of."
The Spurs, the hottest team for the past -- oh, let’s just call it the
whole darn season -- go into the best-of-seven Finals for the first time in
their 26-year history and the good people of San Antonio hardly know how to
They’ve sold out the cavernous Alamodome, for sure, for Games 1 and 2. Game
6 here is sold out, too, if it’s really necessary, and there are only 4,000
tickets left for Game 7, if that one’s needed.
The city’s famed Riverwalk, the collection of restaurants and bars and
shops and hotels that runs through downtown, is starting to hop as tourists
and locals get into the swing of the NBA Finals. Banners adorn the main
thoroughfares, “GO SPURS” messages are emblazoned in office windows, flags
fly from cars, the Spurs dominate the evening news ...
Ah, the first time is unforgettable, isn’t it?
“We've got a chance to do something special for San Antonio," guard Mario Elie said. "This is
a great situation.”
What’s making this city all the more delirious is the fact that the Spurs
are not only in the Finals, they’re favored. History shows that 19 of the
last 20 teams to win the NBA title finished the regular season with one of
the league’s top three records.
The Spurs were an NBA-best 37-13 in the shortened 1999 season. Their
opponents, the hobbled but hardy New York Knicks, were 27-23, 13th in the
Another historical fact favoring the Spurs: Every NBA champion in the last
20 years has been a division-winner during the regular season. The Spurs
won the Midwest, the Knicks were fourth in the Atlantic.
There’s more, almost all of it making the Spurs look almost unbeatable. The
homecourt advantage, which the Spurs have, is overwhelming in the Finals.
No eighth-seed, which is what the Knicks started this improbable
postseason, ever has made it this far.
And on and on and on.
No wonder San Antonians are fastbreaking their way into a frenzy.
| Half full, half empty
| Screaming fans |
The good : More than
38,000 screaming fans will pack into the Alamodome for Games 1 and 2. It’ll
be loud, it’ll be exciting, it’ll be what the NBA Finals should be.
The bad: At least 30,000 of those fans will have crummy seats. Might
as well hold the darn thing in a football stadium. Oh, yeah ...
| Latrell Sprewell
good : The renowned bad boy has walked the straight and narrow all
season long, cleared his name and brought the New York Knicks to the verge
of an unlikely NBA championship with his exciting scoring ability and
The bad : Clutch play? You wanna talk clutch play?
The guy CHOKED HIS COACH!
| Storylines We'll Be Following
| Sweep or a (real) series?
Spurs are the hottest thing in the NBA since Michael Jordan called it
quits. The Knicks are, let’s face it, a lucky bounce and .8 of a second
from being first-round playoff losers. The Spurs are rested, healthy and
confident. The Knicks are worn down, limping and ... confident. Oddsmakers
favor the Spurs, heavily, in Game 1 on Wednesday night. Can San Antonio
pull off the first NBA Finals sweep since the Houston Rockets dumped
the Orlando Magic in
1995? Or can the game but lame Knickerbockers take this one the
| LJ --
Will he or won’t he? |
You know the Knicks are thin if they’re looking at the
availability of Larry
Johnson and his sprained right knee as maybe the biggest factor in the
series. With him, the reasoning goes, the underdog Knicks have a chance.
Without him ... well, without LJ, the story goes, Spike Lee may have some
time this summer to actually work on a film. Johnson hit some huge shots,
for sure, in the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. But if
one guy is it -- a guy who averaged 12 points a game during the season --
hoo, boy, New York, you’re in trouble.
| The pain and the pressure |
The Spurs have the talent, the size
and the depth over the Knicks. They’re more rested, and they’re healthier.
They have the Domecourt advantage. OK, their uniforms are uglier, but that
hardly comes into play. One thing they don’t have is the rich playoff
history of the Knicks, who are in their 12th straight postseason and in
their eighth trip to the NBA Finals. How much will that mean in this
series? Can the raised expectations get to the untested Mr. Robinson and
the seemingly unflappable Mr. Duncan? They should be OK in the Alamodome,
but what happens when they get in a real arena like Madison Square Garden,
for Games 3-5, next Monday, Wednesday and Friday?
| The Bandwagon
| Jeff Van Gundy ||He may
never be more up|
| San Antonio ||Not
Chi-town or NY -- or even SLC -- thank goodness|
| Van Gundy’s hairline
had to do it)|
Larry Johnson ||Knicks
kneed him, and his knee|
| NBA TV ||”Mommy,
can I stay up to watch the NBA ...?” “No! It’s too late! Shut up and go to