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1999 NBA Playoffs

Double trouble

Spurs 'Twin Towers' target of Minnesota defense

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Posted: Saturday May 08, 1999 11:35 PM

  Tower Terror: The Timberwolves will need to contain Robinson and his 15.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. Brian Bahr/Allsport

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Stopping the San Antonio Spurs means slowing down Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

Even though Minnesota has done it twice this season, the Timberwolves know well that accomplishing it in the playoffs will be tough given the success of San Antonio lately.

"If you can limit those guys shooting-wise, you give yourselves a chance. That's where you have to start," said Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders. "They're playing extremely well."

The No. 1-seeded Spurs (37-13) face the No. 8 Timberwolves (25-25) in a best-of-5 Western Conference series starting Sunday in the Alamodome.

San Antonio and Minnesota split their regular-season series 2-2, with each team getting victories on their home courts.

Both of Minnesota's victories were in February, when the Spurs were only 6-8 for the month.

When the Timberwolves won, it was because Minnesota forced the Spurs to rely on shooting from players other than Duncan and Robinson, such as Mario Elie and Avery Johnson, Saunders said.

In one Timberwolves victory, Duncan and Robinson combined took only 21 shots. In the other, they took a combined 19 shots.

"They've done a great job on Tim," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "They play good defense."

Duncan expects more heavy guarding from Minnesota on Sunday.

"They've got some big bodies down there, some very physical bodies down there, and they give me a bit of a problem," he said. "But hopefully I'll get rolling early and stay away from a whole lot of the banging and the double-teaming and make them pay for it."

Duncan, now in his second year in the league, said he knows more what to anticipate in the playoffs compared with last season.

"Walking in last year I really didn't know what to expect," he said. "I'm pretty much going to go out and do the same thing I've been doing. I'm going to turn up the intensity a little bit. You know it counts for more."

The Duncan-Robinson duo led the Spurs in crucial victories down the stretch, giving San Antonio the Midwest Division title and the top seed throughout the playoffs.

In the final four games played in five days, San Antonio beat Portland twice plus Utah and Golden State.

Both Utah and San Antonio finished the regular season at 37-13, but the Spurs beat the Jazz 2-1 in their regular-season series to take the top playoff spot.

Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett said Duncan and Robinson are "towers" who work well together for the Spurs.

"They bring a whole 'nother look to the game, so to speak. If you get past one, there's another one," Garnett said.

Minnesota is adjusting to a squad that has changed over the season through trades and injuries.

The Timberwolves dealt guard Stephon Marbury to New Jersey in March and replaced him with Terrell Brandon from Milwaukee.

The Spurs haven't faced the Timberwolves with Brandon in the lineup because in their only game against Minnesota after the trade, Brandon was out with a right thigh injury.

San Antonio has the edge when it comes to playoff experience, with its older roster and the addition this season of playoff veterans Elie, Jerome Kersey and Steve Kerr.

"It adds to everybody's confidence, without a doubt," Popovich said.

But the Timberwolves may have an advantage that comes with youth -- what Saunders calls the ability to play with "reckless abandon."

"When you have young players as we have," he said, "sometimes they get in a situation where they don't know maybe they're not supposed to win."

 
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