Check your Mail!

Finals Home
Other Basketball
Team Matchups
SI Images

Get Your Spurs Gear!

1999 NBA Playoffs


NBA Finals a study in how not to shoot the ball

Posted: Saturday June 19, 1999 08:33 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, looks back at the San Antonio Spurs' win over the New York Knicks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

NEW YORK -- The rights and wrongs of both teams in Game 2:

What the Knicks did wrong

They decided to single-cover the post men, and that hurt them. They did go to some double teams later in the game, but it was too late. Tim Duncan was in his rhythm. Larry Johnson is not big enough, and certainly not mobile enough, to cover Duncan by himself. And Chris Dudley's not strong enough or fast enough for David Robinson.

They were also intimidated. Once they got some shots blocked early -- four in the first quarter -- they stopped going inside as hard.

And, of course, they didn't shoot the ball well. They need someone else, beside Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, to do some scoring.

What the Knicks did right

They rebounded the ball well again, including grabbing 10 offensive rebounds to five for the Spurs. Actually, though, that's about all they did right.

What the Spurs did wrong

Well, they didn't rebound well. But they didn't rebound well in Game 1, either. It doesn't seem to matter. So that has to be scary for the Knicks.

Of course, the Spurs didn't shoot well from the outside either. But they shot better than the Knicks.

What the Spurs did right

They got the ball into their big guys. They took advantage of their size.

They got some support from their bench, which is something the Knicks didn't get.

And they played that great, intimidating defense.

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

Check back on Sunday when English examines the New York factor in Game 3.

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.

NEW YORK -- As Forrest Gump's momma might have said, "Ugly is as ugly does."

And, so far, these NBA Finals are a two-bagger.

The offensive showing -- or no-showing -- in the Finals wouldn't be so bad, really, if it weren't for the missed open shots. Granted, those are hard to come by because the two best defensive teams in the league are matching up in this one.

But there are some all-out clunkers going up, some wide-open clunkers. And no one is immune.

"We win best when it's ugly," Tim Duncan, the Spurs' Finals MVP-to-be said after Game 2, an 80-67 dog. Duncan, being a 7-footer, is one of the few players in the Finals actually shooting better than 50 percent. He's made 22 of his 38 shots. "We're not a very pretty team, and we never claim to be."

No, the Spurs are defense, with Duncan and his Twin Towers twin, David Robinson (8-of-18 in the series). Their opponents in these Finals, the New York Knicks, are fairly homely, too -- and that's being darn nice considering the offensive efforts they've put forth in Games 1 and 2.

In the opener, the Knicks were held to 38.3 percent shooting. In Game 2, it dropped 32.9 percent, and the 67 points in Game 2 were the second-lowest output by any team in Finals history.

Quick, somebody call the Ugly Police!

"If you look at the championship teams in any sport," Avery Johnson (5-for-11), the Spurs' point guard, said, "even when they don't play well offensively, they find a way to win."

Some people are even starting to look for excuses -- like, say, the spaciousness of the Alamodome, where Games 1 and 2 were held, and its airy and difficult shooting background.

"A lot of guys prefer the Dome. Latrell prefers it," said Marcus Camby (8-for-17), speaking of teammate Latrell Sprewell (17-for-46). "You can't blame that on the shooting. I think it was more of us missing shots and more the Spurs' defense."

The main culprits for the Knicks, so far, in this Finals folly are Larry Johnson (3-of-15) and Chris Childs (3-of-16). But there is plenty of blame to go around.

Can it get any worse?

Improbably, yes, it can. As the series moves to New York for Games 3-5 and desperation starts to set in for the Knicks, things could get really ugly, shooting-wise. For both teams.

Close your eyes. This isn't going to be pretty.


Half full, half empty
Basketball in the Big Apple
The good: Some of the greatest players, some of the greatest teams, came from right here in New York City.
The bad: These Knicks aren't one of those teams, and the greatest player in this series was born in the Virgin Islands.
Marcus Camby
The good : The talented Knicks forward has shown he can lift a team with his high-flying play and his nose for the ball, grabbing rebounds, blocking shots and generally making the Spurs look for him every time down the floor. Many figure coach Jeff Van Gundy should stick him in the starting lineup.
The bad: But Camby, as important as he has been, hasn't shown Gundy he can make it as a starter. He was in foul trouble in Game 1, making him virtually ineffective. And the bigger David Robinson muscled him all over the floor in Game 2.
Storylines We'll Be Following
Bar-B-Q to bagels
The home cooking is over for the Spurs -- at least for now -- as the best-of-seven hoe-down moves to Madison Square Garden. The Spurs, winners of 12 straight playoff games, have yet to lose away from the Alamodome this postseason. In fact, they are winning by a whopping 13.4 points a game on the road. But this is the Garden, the site of many a Knicks' miracle, a tougher place, probably, than the Spurs have played all season. Are they up to it? .
Shooting percentages
Wow. How low can they go? These Finals have not been pretty -- even the players admit it -- and it's not just because of the two pretty good defensive teams. When players are getting good looks, they're just not making the shots. Kind of sounds like the playoffs are going the same way as the screwy regular season.
The "S" word
Seen on the Alamodome's big screen during Game 4, an in-house advertisement for the Spurs: A black screen with white type. "Welcome to San Antonio. A very clean city." Fade. And then more type appears. "We sweep." Fade. And, finally "Regularly." Three straight series sweeps? Could be ...

The Bandwagon
The Garden The most knowledgeable fans -- and hardest to please -- in the game
Tim DuncanGive him the trophy, already!
Allan Houston Sprewell's partner outplaying him
Knicks' frontcourt What frontcourt?
The tubeUgly games make for ugly TV

To the top

Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.