Elie comes up big in Game 4
Posted: Friday June 25, 1999 01:22 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mario Elie came with more than a New York background and attitude this time.
He came with New York game.
Elie, who grew up five minutes from Madison Square Garden, recovered from a terrible Game 3 with the kind of performance the San Antonio Spurs needed from him Wednesday night.
He scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, helping the Spurs beat the New York Knicks 96-89 to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
"Toughness, man. That's what New York City ball's all about," Elie said. "Going to the basket hard, finishing the play, dunking on people and talking trash. That's New York City ball."
The Garden was much better to Elie than in Game 3 Monday night, when he had only six points on 2-for-6 shooting with five fouls. Every time the Knicks made one of their numerous comeback attempts in Game 4, Elie was right there to say, "Not tonight."
He said it with a three-point play early in the third quarter sparking a 9-0 run that momentarily stunned the Knicks. He said it with a 3-pointer five minutes later that provided an 11-point lead.
And Elie was back again with another three-point play that quieted the excitement generated by Latrell Sprewell's fast-break dunk.
And all this after it seemed Elie would face another early exit at his favorite arena. He went down with his left knee hitting the court awkwardly in the first quarter after Charlie Ward stole the ball. It was only bruised, and he came back.
Did he ever.
"They let me play tonight," Elie said, obviously referring to the officials. "I got two fouls early in Game 3, which took me out of my game."
In the fourth quarter, when it seemed the team Elie grew up watching would never leave the Spurs alone, he went right at them with a fast-break dunk of his own that gave San Antonio an 81-73 lead. It came with a stare down and some lip that would have made Elie's pals at the famous West 4th Street playground proud.
He even had words with Knicks fan Spike Lee, who's made an art out of courtside heckling at the Garden.
"Spike is a very knowledgeable fan," Elie said. "I just go over there and mess with him. He's the only guy that doesn't cuss back at me. He's the only guy who really talks to me up front, everybody else is on me.
"That's fine. That's the New York crowd."
Still, it wasn't enough.
The Garden and the Knicks didn't give up, cutting San Antonio's lead to 81-79 on a jumper by Allan Houston. With the Spurs leading 86-84 moments later, Elie was there again to corral one of the Spurs' 14 offensive rebounds -- on his own miss.
"We had to get a game from our perimeter players," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, also praising Sean Elliott and his 14 points.
Of all the guys on the floor for the Spurs who were under 7 feet, Elie might have been the biggest nuisance.
It's an important playground skill that also comes in handy in the NBA Finals.
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