The big stop
Spurs finally put the brakes on freewheeling Knicks
Posted: Thursday June 24, 1999 10:25 AM
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
And then the Spurs shut them down.
Simple as that.
Slammed the door on Game 4, took a 3-1 lead in the first-to-four series and, in effect, perhaps slammed the door on the Knicks for good.
"Boy, they were coming at us tonight," said center David Robinson, one of the key players down the stretch for the Spurs. "We did a nice job holding them off."
The Knicks had whittled the Spurs' lead to three, at 86-83, with just more than four minutes left in the game Wednesday night and, after another San Antonio misfire on the offensive side, sliced it to two with 3:40 left when Larry Johnson hit the second of two free throws.
They had been down by as many as 13 in the third quarter and now, with plenty of time left, the Knicks seemed poised to steal Game 4.
Then, facing the most crucial stretch of the season in a must-win game for them, the Knicks wouldn't score again for more than three minutes.
A slide of eight straight misses and two missed free throws for the Knicks put the game, and the series, firmly in the grasp of the Spurs.
"The teams we played before this series, we'd get up on them and they'd just come unglued. Not this team," said San Antonio's Sean Elliott. "I went into the huddle at one time and said 'I don't think they can come back on us.' But they did."
Until, of course, the Spurs turned up the defense in the final moments. San Antonio led the NBA in field-goal percentage defense this season, but they had hardly shown it this game. They allowed 29 points in the first quarter, and ended up giving up 26 in the final period.
"Those defensive stoppers were a killer," said San Antonio's Jaren Jackson. "Man, it was unbelievable. Big Dave [Robinson] is in there tipping rebounds, Tim [Duncan] is blocking shots. It was great."
The Spurs did it how they have done it all season -- by letting their two 7-footers, Robinson and Duncan, roam the middle, blocking and intimidating shots and grabbing rebounds. And by putting pressure on the perimeter shooters with solid man-to-man defense, good switching and rotation from the guards.
The Spurs had nine blocks, outrebounded the Knicks 49-34, had 14 offensive rebounds to the Knicks' 10 and had 21 points off New York turnovers.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Spurs outrebounded the Knicks 17-10.
"That was one of our better closeout games, in terms of team defense," said point guard Avery Johnson. "You can't give the Knicks no breathing room."
With their play at the end of the game Wednesday night, the Knicks finally may be out of breath.
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