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1999 NBA Playoffs

Swept away

Knicks: 'I've got your sweep right here, San Antonio'

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Posted: Tuesday June 22, 1999 12:02 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, breaks down Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks, finally, had more things go right for them than wrong in Game 3. And they have their first win in the series because of it.

What went right for the Knicks -- They were aggressive going to the basket and getting fouls, first against Mario Elie and then Jaren Jackson. And with those guys in trouble, Allan Houston just proceeded to slice them up.

They had energy early, and that helped. And the Knicks did a great job defensively on the Spurs early on, too.

Maybe the biggest thing, though, is that they had a third scorer step in and take the load off Houston and Latrell Sprewell. Larry Johnson had 16 points. And Marcus Camby gave them some electric minutes.

What went wrong for the Knicks -- Well, they didn't get the production out of the point guards I'm sure they'd like to see (six points, six assists, four turnovers from Chris Childs and Charlie Ward). And their inside game is still not there. Johnson was shooting mostly from outside.

What went right for the Spurs -- They got back into the game after the Knicks' fast start. They found another player, in Antonio Daniels, to give them a spark. He had eight points and also played pretty good defense while he was in there. And David Robinson had a solid game, with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

What went wrong for the Spurs -- The turnovers killed them. Twenty turnovers led to 18 points. They cut that in half and they win the game. Mario Elie and Jaren Jackson getting in early foul trouble hurt them. They had to go with Steve Kerr probably a lot longer than they wanted to. Houston was too much for him.

Tim Duncan not scoring at all in the fourth quarter really hurt them. They depend on him a lot down the stretch. Earlier, they needed Jaren Jackson to give them a spark, like he did in Game 1, and he couldn't. He went 0-3.

The lineup change for the Knicks, with Marcus Camby in the starting five, was a big difference. It gave them energy early, kind of like when Camby used to come off the bench with Sprewell and Childs.

Still, San Antonio will not go away. I really don't think the Knicks can beat the Spurs three times in a row, even in New York. We've got two more games at Madison Square Garden to find out.

Alex English is the NBA analyst for CNN/SI, the 24-hour sports news network from CNN and Sports Illustrated. Check back on Wednesday for his preview of Game 4.

This is a special NBA Finals edition of "The Week at a Glance." Check back every day until the Finals are decided for a new glance.

NEW YORK -- In New York, a town know for its culture, fine restaurants and urbane living, its theatre district, its museums and its galleries, folks would put it simply, eloquently, in a well-known, charmingly colloquial manner.

Sweep this.

Pal.

The New York Knicks, the city's darlings right now, put an end to any talk of a sweep in the NBA Finals with their 89-81 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night in Madison Square Garden. It was a message, loud and clear, to the Spurs and everyone else in and out of the NBA.

"Hey! We're still kicking here! Whassamattawidyou?"

Chalked up as so much NBA Finals fodder after losing Games 1 and 2, the Knicks took the lead early, never relinquished it, fought back two late challenges by the Spurs and now look to tie the series in Game 4 on Wednesday night.

Improbable? With the Knicks, the word is starting to lose its luster.

"I think you saw the true character of the Knicks tonight," coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We played extremely hard. We hung in there when they were making runs. We were very resilient."

The wonder now is if the Knicks have taken that overused but very real intangible -- we call it momentum -- and have made it theirs. No home team in the NBA Finals ever has won all three middle games of the 2-3-2 format.

And the Spurs haven't lost three straight games all season.

"It's always been a series," said Knicks forward Marcus Camby. "The only thing San Antonio did down there was solidify home court. You're supposed to win on your home court. Now they just put the emphasis on us. They have three games in the Garden."

With a 12-point Spurs' win in Game 1, and a 13-pointer in Game 2, there had been plenty of talk about a sweep. The fans in the Alamodome in Game 2 were chanting it. And the Knicks, for the most part, heard it.

"We felt in our hearts that we weren't going to be swept," said the Knicks' Latrell Sprewell. "We felt like we should have won a game in San Antonio, we just didn't play well offensively."

The Knicks fiercely attacked the basket Monday night, got calls, got rebounds and, quite possibly, got themselves back into this thing.

And, even if they didn't, even if the Spurs sweep them the rest of the way, the Knicks have proven they are not to be taken lightly.

"You hear a lot of hype, hear a lot of stuff in the papers and on TV -- I don't think our team really pays attention to that," said Spurs center David Robinson. "I have a lot of confidence in this team that we're not looking past these guys at all. I mean, we don't take them lightly."

Not any more, you don't.

 

Half full, half empty
Game 3
The good : May be the most exciting game of the series so far. No, it was, for sure. Clutch shots, a great atmosphere ... you can breathe now, David Stern
The bad: We sure hope we haven't seen the best. This series has all the earmarks of something that could degenerate into a foulfest at this rate.
The New York Knicks
The good : They acquitted themselves well in Game 3 when they could have just succumbed to the reality that they are, after all, a No. 8 seed.
The bad : They still shot only 39 percent as a team. They're getting more shots than the Spurs 'cause they're active, but 39 percent ... that won't win most games against the Spurs.
 
Storylines We'll Be Following
The big "mo"
Game 3 was huge for the Knicks on a multitude of levels. It crushed any self-doubt that might have been creeping in -- not saying there was any, but there might have been -- put some doubt in the Spurs' minds -- there sure wasn't much there before -- and made Game 4 a whopper of a game. No team ever has won the three straight at home since the NBA switched to the 2-3-2 Finals format. Can New York keep it going and break that streak?
Whistling in the Garden
Funny how the venue changes and so do the refs. Ahhh, life in the NBA. After averaging 17.5 more free throws a game than the Knicks in the first two games, the Spurs actually shot eight fewer free throws in Game 3. The Spurs are going to have to find some way to keep that hot breath of a whistle off their necks, or this one will be headed back to San Antonio.
Dunkin' Duncan
By the end of Game 3 Monday night at the Garden, we got to see 7-foot Tim Duncan setting up for a 3-pointer at the top. It's the last thing Spurs' fans, or any fan of good outside shooting, wanted to see. Duncan didn't score in the fourth quarter of Game 3, and he struggled with his shot, and getting pushed around, for much of the evening. Can he get tough and get his scoring touch back against muscleman Larry Johnson?
 

The Bandwagon
Allan Houston Hold that MVP award (for now)!
Mario Elie Veteran needs to lead by example. He didn't.
The NBA Finals At the least, Game 3 makes it more interesting.
The NBA Finals At the worst, Game 3 furthers the pain.
San Antonio fans Getting a little nervous out there? Don't. You still have the hammer.

 
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