Twin Towers lead Spurs to 12th straight playoff win
Posted: Sunday June 27, 1999 11:33 PM
SAN ANTONIO (CNN/SI) -- The San Antonio Spurs were trying to set a new playoff record in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. They almost set another record without even trying.
In what was nearly the lowest scoring game in NBA Finals history, the Spurs overcame their own offensive ineptitude to defeat the cold-shooting New York Knicks 80-67 on Friday night for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Once again, Tim Duncan led the way with 25 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
But even Duncan wasn't as dominant as he was in Game 1, when he had 33 points and 16 rebounds.
"It was a very ugly win. No way to hide that," he said. "But we win best when it's ugly. We can pull those types of games out."
With their 12th straight victory, the Spurs broke a tie with the 1988 Los Angeles Lakers for the longest postseason winning streak in a single season.
The teams were also close to shattering the old record of 145 combined points set by Syracuse and Fort Wayne in 1955. But a 3-pointer by Jaren Jackson with 10 seconds left and a meaningless bucket by the Knicks at the buzzer kept the teams from that dubious distinction.
Other than Duncan and David Robinson, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, no other player had an outstanding night for the Spurs. Nonetheless they have produced the greatest run of playoff success in the NBA's 52-year history.
San Antonio shot just 2-for-12 on 3-pointers, missed 11 of 35 free throws and let the Knicks stick around much longer than they should have. The Spurs got most of the rest of their offense from Mario Elie, who scored 15 points, and Sean Elliott, who added 10.
"We're going to New York with an advantage, but I don't think we've outplayed them," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We've just knocked down some shots."
There was no secret formula to this victory. All the Spurs had to do was watch the Knicks shoot -- or try to.
Whether it was layups, dunks, wide-open jumpers from behind screens or drives into the lane, New York missed plenty of each.
Never was it worse than in the fourth quarter when the Knicks went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, a drought that was epitomized by a shot from Allan Houston hitting the shot clock right as it expired.
Latrell Sprewell finally broke the field-goal drought on a jumper with 1:32 left, but Duncan answered right away with an alley-oop dunk that made it 71-61 and led to chants of "Sweep, Sweep" from the Alamodome crowd of 39,554 -- the second-largest in finals history.
Game 3 is Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks face the daunting task of trying to become just the eighth team ever to come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-7 series. It has happened only twice in the finals.
"We never think sweep," Duncan said. "We think one game at a time."
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy had a similar attitude.
"We don't have to win four games on Monday," he said. "We just have to win one."
Sprewell led the Knicks with 26 points but shot just 8-for-22 from the field. Larry Johnson pitched in with a 2-for-12 effort, Chris Childs was 2-for-8 and Kurt Thomas was 1-for-6.
San Antonio didn't paint the prettiest picture with its play, either. The Spurs failed to grab an offensive rebound in the first half and finished with just five -- all by Duncan.
"The defense really kept us in there tonight," Robinson said. "To a certain extent, they're thinking about coming to the hole. They understand it's not going to be easy to get to the rim."
New York was within striking distance early in the fourth before their long drought. After Thomas made a jumper to make it 58-53, San Antonio responded with an 11-4 run including five straight points by Robinson -- a dunk, a jumper and a free throw -- for a 69-57 lead.
Sprewell ended a 5 1/2 minute scoreless streak by making two free throws with 2:21 left, but by then it was too late for a Knicks team that missed 18 of 19 shots in one stretch and didn't reach 50 points until the final quarter.
New York managed only four fast-break points and committed nearly twice as many fouls as San Antonio -- 25-13.
"I think the main focus is settling down and getting that first one," New York's Marcus Camby said. "Guys on this team have a lot of pride. We definitely don't want to get swept, and I don't think that's going to happen."
The Spurs didn't grab their first offensive rebound until 4 1/2 minutes into the third quarter, and Duncan, who had 33 points and 16 rebounds in Game 1, turned it into a three-point play for a 49-38 lead.
The Knicks got within three late in the period but were stymied on their next three trips downcourt. Duncan grabbed the Spurs' third offensive rebound and converted a put-back with seven-tenths of a second left in the quarter to give San Antonio a 56-49 lead entering the fourth.
Late in the second quarter, Duncan had five points in a 10-2 run that helped San Antonio open a 39-30 lead, but New York closed within five at the half.
Duncan and Sprewell led all scorers with 12 points apiece at intermission, and the most interesting stats were the Spurs' offensive rebounds (none) and fouls (five) and the Knicks' shooting percentage (29.8).
The Spurs led 20-15 after a first quarter in which the Knicks missed two layups and a dunk and generally blurred the line between playing recklessly and with intensity, just as Van Gundy had feared.
Avery Johnson hit a running right-handed hook shot just before the first-quarter buzzer, ending a 12-minute period in which the Knicks took 27 shots to San Antonio's 20 and outrebounded the Spurs 17-11 yet never led. The Spurs were not called for any fouls in the first quarter.
Notes: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich screamed at a member of the arena staff after acrid-smelling smoke from a pyrotechnic display drifted into his players' faces during a timeout. The smoke was set off as part of a dunking skit involving a mascot. ... Bruce Hornsby, former keyboard player for the Grateful Dead, played the national anthem on the piano. ... Spike Lee and his entourage were booed as they arrived.
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