Elie's early foul trouble freed Houston to do his thing
Posted: Tuesday June 22, 1999 12:55 PM
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
NEW YORK -- Game 3 of the NBA Finals -- and, suddenly, it really is a series, isn’t it? -- may have been decided by a bunch of early whistles.
Those foul calls, in the first two minutes of the game, handcuffed the San Antonio Spurs’ best perimeter defender, freed up the New York Knicks’ best shooter and put the Knicks, all but dead after losing Games 1 and 2, right back in the thick of the Finals.
“There were a couple calls that were questionable,” said Spurs guard Mario Elie. “But when you’re on the road, things like that happen.”
Elie was whistled for two personal fouls -- and then one technical -- in the span of four seconds early in the first quarter, and New York’s Allan Houston took over from there. Elie, returning to his native New York, had held Houston to 19 points a game in the first two games.
With Elie limited to only 26 minutes in Game 3, though, Houston connected for 34 points. Twelve of those came from the free throw line, where he was perfect for the night.
“They took me out of the rhythm of my game early,” said Elie. “When you’re in the Finals, you get tested. We’re just getting tested.”
Houston not only scored a lot, he scored critical key baskets. He hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired in the third, and a straightaway jumper in the fourth to keep the Spurs at bay.
Both came with Elie sitting on the bench.
“I played my same game,” Elie said. “They just called [the fouls]. It’s the politics of the NBA, man. You got to deal with it.”
In fact, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy had been talking for days about the need for his team to take the ball to the basket, get some foul calls and get to the free throw line. The Spurs had averaged 17.5 more free throws a game in the first two games.
Monday, the Knicks shot 32 free throws to the Spurs’ 22. The Spurs were called for 27 fouls, the Knicks 23.
“I think we were very aggressive trying to get to the spots we wanted on the floor tonight,” Van Gundy said. “We thought we caught the ball deeper in the post than we had in the previous two games.”
The question now is whether the Knicks can keep that up in Game 4 on Wednesday and try to knot the series. Or whether the Spurs, somehow, can knuckle down without getting the whistleblowers all worked up.
“Wednesday, I’m going to be careful, try not to be too aggressive,” Elie said. “When you’re trying to win the title, you can’t win every game.”
Not this year, at least.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.