A dual dilemma
Knicks can't get offense going, can't stop spirited Spurs
Posted: Thursday June 17, 1999 09:25 PM
Half full, half empty | Storylines | The Bandwagon
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
| English Lesson |
| Alex English
, an eight-time All-Star with the Denver Nuggets, takes a
glance at Game 1 of the NBA Finals. You can catch his English Lesson every
day throughout the NBA Finals.|
Round 1 goes to the San Antonio Spurs, but
the New York Knicks
can take some solace for some parts of their game that they did pull off.
What went right for the Knicks : They got a great start. They were
very active, and very fluid with their offense.
They got a lot of second-chance points (19-2 over San Antonio). And they
rebounded well, especially offensively (13-4 over the Spurs).
What went wrong for the Knicks : They played too much single
coverage on the Spurs' big guys, especially Duncan. They weren't quick
enough to get to the double-teams when they did run them, so I think Jeff
Van Gundy will double more in Game 2.
And they need to run more. They did not fastbreak as much as they needed
to, especially for the way they rebounded.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Spurs didn't play the perfect game,
What went wrong for the Spurs : It seemed, early in the game, they
seemed a little tentative. Not lethargic from their layoff. Just a little
tentative. They have to come out and jump on the Knicks.
And they can't allow the second-chance points they gave up to the Knicks.
They are too big of a team to do that.
What went right for the Spurs : They did a good job of posting up
the big guys, taking advantage of their size.
They were patient when they fell behind. They did a good job of going to
their bread-and-butter, which is Tim Duncan.
And they definitely picked up their intensity down the stretch.
There will be a lot of adjustments made, especially by the Knicks, for
Game 2 on Friday night -- though, with those two big guys up front for the
Spurs, I'm not sure how much they can do.
Still, expect the Knicks to give it all they have Friday night. Game 1 was
a rude awakening for them. If they lose Game 2, they'll really be in
Alex English is the NBA analyst for CNN/SI, the 24-hour sports news
network from CNN and Sports Illustrated. His column, the English Lesson,
appears exclusively on CNNSI.com.
Check back on Friday for his keys for each team in Game 2 of the NBA
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 -- What does New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy have to be
He fronts Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs play some high-post,
low-post offense with power forward David Robinson, who
tosses the ball over the New York defender to Duncan for easy scores.
He double-teams Duncan, and his players get into foul trouble. And Duncan
scores sometimes anyway.
The Knicks finally play some decent defense on the frontline, and Jaren Jackson lights the
Knicks up from outside.
It's a lose-lose-lose situation.
And playing defense on the Spurs is only half the battle.
No wonder Van Gundy looks like he needs a nice, long vacation.
"The biggest thing they do," Van Gundy said of the Spurs, who took Game 1
in the NBA Finals on Wednesday night with an 89-77 win, "is clog the lane.
Every time you penetrate the lane, you have two shot blockers."
Yes, the focus immediately after Game 1 was on the Spurs offense: Duncan's
33 points and 16 rebounds, Robinson's 13 points and seven assists and
Jackson's 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
But the slashing, cutting Knicks found that cracking the Spurs' defense is
going to be even a tougher challenge than stopping the Spurs' offense in
this best-of-seven series.
"We played against three good shot blockers in the first three series," Van
Gundy said, talking of Miami's Alonzo Mourning,
Mutombo and Indiana's Rik Smits. "But never two
on the court at the same time. To me, that's a huge difference."
It was, in Game 1, all the difference in the world. The Spurs blocked six
shots in the game, but they changed tons more. And they forced some bad
decisions once players like Latrell Sprewell, the
Knicks speedy scorer, found themselves under the basket and looking up at
the Twin Towers, Duncan and Robinson.
Sprewell had six of New York's 15 turnovers.
"We just kind of lost our poise a little bit on the offensive end instead
of passing the ball to each other, being a little bit more unselfish and
taking the shots that we need to take," Knicks guard Allan Houston said. "And
that's really the key for our team at this point."
The Knicks made it this far -- the first No. 8 seed ever to make it to the
NBA Finals -- by sending Sprewell and Houston aggressively to the basket.
Wednesday, they found out they simply couldn't get there against the Spurs.
Or, at least not effectively.
New York scored 36 of its 77 points in the paint. But 16 of them were on
fast breaks. And, in the game, they shot only 38.3 percent. In a disastrous
second quarter, in which they scored only 10 points, the Knicks shot only
"Interior defense has been our anchor," backup forward Malik Rose of the Spurs
said, "starting off with Tim Duncan and David Robinson."
It may be the anchor that sinks the Knicks, if van Gundy doesn't come up
"He's one of the best coaches in the league at making adjustments," Spurs
guard Steve Kerr said.
"They'll do some things differently. It's going to be a long series."
| Half full, half empty
| A shooting Spree |
The good: Knicks'
scorer gets a lot of shots -- 24 -- in Game 1. Latrell Sprewell has to
score, and score big, if the Knicks are to shock the world, and the only
way to do that is to jack it up. His 24 shots Wednesday night were the most
he's ever taken with the Knicks.
The bad: He made only nine
of them. He was unheard from in the second quarter, when he took only three
shots and the Knicks scored only 10 points, an NBA Finals record-low for
that quarter. And he has six turnovers.
| Larry's back
good: New York's Larry Johnson came back
from a sprained right knee and gamely put in 21 minutes of playing time in
The bad: He was forced to match up with Tim Duncan
much of the time, which meant foul trouble, few shots (three) and only five
| Storylines We'll Be Following
| The trouble with Tim
Spurs' Duncan had 33 points and 16 rebounds and was a defensive force, too.
This guy has Finals MVP written all over him unless the Knicks find some
way to deal with him..
| Still a sweep? |
It's still very possible. Maybe not
likely, but utterly possible. The Spurs have a way of wearing teams down.
And, let's not forget, they play better on the road. They have been beating
teams by an average of 13.4 points a game on the road during the
| Where's Camby?
man Marcus Camby of
the Knicks had one of his most disappointing outings of the playoffs in
Game 1, saddled with foul trouble and finishing with only 10 points. Some
are calling for Van Gundy to start the 6-foot-11 jumper, who injects a lot
of life under the basket -- where the Knicks need it most. But where will
the Knicks be if he keeps getting into foul trouble?
| The Bandwagon
| Tim Duncan ||And Karl Malone was the
David Robinson ||Seven
assists! Does everything Duncan can't get to|
| Chris Childs
make Spurs pay for leaving him open (1-of-8)|
| Mario Elie ||Kept
Houston from going off|
| Knicks' bandwagoneers ||Time to