NBA Finals Notebook
Houston, LJ disappear in fourth
Posted: Saturday June 26, 1999 03:01 AM
As a result, the Knicks' eventful, sometimes bizarre season came to an end with a 78-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Friday night in the fifth game of the NBA Finals.
"We shouldn't accept anything less than winning a championship," said Houston, who led the Knicks with 34 points in Game 3 but scored only 36 after that. "What's going to be the challenge is getting back."
Johnson, who made a huge contribution with his inside game in the first half, had only one point in the third quarter and didn't score in the fourth. It was a quiet ending for Johnson, who was fined $25,000 during the finals for failing to talk to the media and then cursing at them.
The Knicks forward had a much-publicized spat with NBC analyst Bill Walton on Thursday. Walton called Johnson a "disgrace" and a "sad human being," while Johnson responded that Walton should "check his history and see how many slaves his ancestors had."
Knicks fans chanted obscenities at Walton while he was trying to do NBC's live halftime show in the stands.
After halftime, Johnson was about as much of a factor in the game as Walton. His last miss came on a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that would have given New York an 80-76 lead with about a minute left.
Instead, Avery Johnson hit an 18-foot baseline jumper to put away the Knicks.
"As disappointed as I am in the result for them, I am very, very proud of them," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
Spree and Jeff
Now that Jeff Van Gundy's job appears safe, Latrell Sprewell said Friday he would have no problem playing for him again.
Van Gundy has divulged that New York Knicks president Dave Checketts assured him he can coach the team again next season. Van Gundy said he still wants the job.
"I mentioned it sort of in passing because people were asking me questions about my future as if I thought it was up in the air still, and it really hasn't been up in the air," Van Gundy said Friday after the team shootaround before Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
"Ever since Dave took over, he's told me the same thing -- that he wants me back. Now, were the results going to be good enough to be brought back? That wasn't sure until probably a few weeks ago."
Sprewell was not happy earlier this season when Van Gundy insisted on bringing him off the bench in a sixth-man role. But Sprewell said he would even play for Van Gundy in that role next season if that's what the coach wants.
"I really don't have a choice," Sprewell said. "I feel like I can give something to the team either way."
Does Van Gundy consider himself a Knicks lifer?
"They don't allow anybody to be anything for life," said Van Gundy, who has been with the team for 10 years -- six as an assistant and four as coach. "I've only been here, so I like it very much, obviously."
Once again, the shot clock malfunctioned and caused a delay in the game. This time, it messed up a possession or two for each team.
The Spurs' shot clock went off with 3:28 left in the third quarter. The game was delayed for nearly 10 minutes while officials discussed how to solve the problem fairly.
Referees Joe Crawford, Steve Javie and Bennett Salvatore decided to give the Spurs a shot clock on the floor in the corner of the court. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich complained that it was unfair for the Knicks to have a shot clock above the basket. It was turned off, and the Knicks got the same corner clock as the Spurs.
On one possession, Spurs point guard Avery Johnson couldn't see the clock and rushed a bad shot.
Late in the game, New York's Chris Childs got a 24-second violation when it appeared he couldn't see the clock was running down.
Looking around the Spurs locker room before the game, it was evident that many players handle the potential clinching game differently.
Mario Elie was as serious as a boxer before a big fight, slipping his customary rubber bands around his wrists and saying quietly to a reporter that he doesn't talk before games.
"What's the date?" Rose asked Will Perdue.
"June 25," Perdue said.
"You look at A.J., he's had the same approach ever since the playoffs started," said Perdue, who won three championship with the Chicago Bulls. "Before the game, you don't talk to him, you don't say anything. He's very focused, and he's been like that since day one.
"Younger guys, like Malik and Antonio [Daniels], you can kind of see the excitement in their eyes with what's about to happen."
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