Spurs have lost last four at Forum
Posted: Friday May 21, 1999 09:53 PM
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) -- Just when San Antonio has reached cruising speed with a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in their Western Conference semifinal series, the Spurs find themselves at the Forum.
It's a place Tim Duncan can't remember winning in, because the second-year forward never has.
The Spurs are 14-34 in regular-season games at the soon-to-be-retired building, and have lost their last four games there.
"It is a big hurdle for us," Duncan said Friday. "The Lakers are a very confident team. They're going to come in here with some great emotion."
Despite their success against the Spurs at home, history isn't on the Lakers' side. They haven't recovered from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series since the trio of Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West helped them do so 30 years ago.
Since then, the Lakers are 0-9 in playoff series in which they lost the first two games, including losses to Utah each of the last two seasons.
"We aren't dejected, we aren't feeling like the series is over," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. "We've been in both games."
Both teams insist they have yet to play their best basketball heading into Game 3 on Saturday.
"A bounce here or there" is how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich describes the difference in the first two games.
"I don't think anybody's outplayed the other team," he said. "I think we've been a little bit more fortunate down the stretch in a couple of games."
The Lakers would agree. They say they beat themselves in losing 87-81 and 79-76 in San Antonio.
"We've had shots we're very capable of hitting, they just haven't gone in for us," Lakers forward Glen Rice said.
"We realize if we go out and play the way we're capable of playing, things could easily turn around. We don't want to get back where we were about a month ago talking about it. We've just got to go out and do it," he said.
That means getting Shaquille O'Neal more than the 11 shots he took in Game 2. The Spurs don't expect so few from O'Neal on Saturday, but they want all his shots to be challenged.
"We've been very aggressive going down there," said Spurs center David Robinson, who along with fellow 7-footer Duncan has frustrated O'Neal. "If he wants to take tough shots with guys on him, then that's a good thing for us."
Just because O'Neal has averaged 18.5 points in the series -- well below his season average -- doesn't mean the Spurs are overconfident.
"One of the reasons why we've played him pretty good thus far is because we fear him so much," Spurs guard Avery Johnson said. "He can come in the next game, in our minds, playing like he's going to get 38.
"The minute you start to relax and don't fear him as much, then you're going to really be killed."
Fisher, whose job is to get everyone involved in the offense, said O'Neal shot the ball better in Game 2 despite taking only 11 shots.
"At times, the two big guys have caused Shaq some problems, but at times Shaq has caused problems for himself," Fisher said. "He's a good enough player to adjust to them.
"In tomorrow's game, he'll do a great job of mixing both. He'll pass it out when he's supposed to, but he's also going to be the dominant player that he's capable of being and take the game over."
Sometimes, Robinson believes, it's best for him to get out of O'Neal's way down low.
"He's so big if he gets the ball down there, it doesn't make a lot of sense to pound him all the time. You don't want to foul him a lot early in the quarter when you're not in the penalty or when he's got a chance to make a good three-point play," Robinson said.
"You don't want to hack him every time, but there are certain times when you're going to want to send him to the line quite a bit."
O'Neal has made only 11-of-24 free throws in the two games, including 2-of-10 in Game 2.
"That's a good thing for us," Robinson said. "Especially if the game is close, those free throws are going to be important. That's been a smart strategy if we keep him at the line."
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