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Marty Burns' Breakdown
San Antonio    Phoenix 
Even at age 34, David Robinson remains a top-flight scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. Against Phoenix's Luc Longley, the Admiral should be free to roam and use his versatility to maximum effect.  CENTER

The Edge:

Longley is a big body to defend in the middle, but against quicker players like Robinson he's at a disadvantage. Look for him to guard Duncan instead, with Cliff Robinson sliding over to check the Admiral. 

If healthy, Tim Duncan is a force. With him and the Admiral inside, opposing teams just don't get many good looks. Small forward Sean Elliott is still rounding into shape after missing most of the season because of a kidney transplant. The Spurs will need his defense and three-point shooting.  FORWARDS

The Edge:

Despite playing out of position, the Suns' Robinson has done an admirable job filling in for the injured Tom Gugliotta. Still he'll have his hands full with the Twin Towers. Shawn Marion is an athletic star-in-the-making at small forward, but he doesn't create offense and his inexperience could be a factor. 

Avery Johnson provides steady floor leadership and takes care of the ball, but he's lost a step on defense and can be beaten off the dribble. Same goes for veteran shooting guard Mario Elie, who has not been knocking down shots this season.  GUARDS

The Edge:

With Jason Kidd out with a broken ankle, Penny Hardaway has stepped up his game. Alternating between point guard and shooting guard, Penny has kept the Suns alive with his scoring and playmaking. Randy Livingston fills in adequately at point but, like Marion, is inexperienced.  

Terry Porter has been huge all season for the Spurs, playing smart ball and hitting clutch shots. Samaki Walker, who played well late after a disappointing season, will need to keep it up if Duncan can't play.  BENCH

The Edge:

A leading candidate for the Sixth Man Award, Rodney Rogers can bang inside or drift out to shoot the three. Kevin Johnson and Rex Chapman are solid in the backcourt. 

The Spurs proved last year they weren't soft, and their pride won't let them go down easily. Despite not having Elliott most of the year, they still finished No. 1 in team defense, a reflection of their commitment.  INTANGIBLES

The Edge:

After four straight first-round playoff exits the resilient Suns feel they're due. Considering their hard luck in the regular season -- mainly the injuries to Gugliotta and Kidd -- it's hard to argue with them. 

Gregg Popovich has been patient all season trying to get his team ready to defend their title. He'll keep the Spurs on an even keel no matter what.  COACH

The Edge:

Despite the injuries, Scott Skiles did a masterful job keeping the Suns afloat. Still, he has no playoff bench experience. 

How will the Spurs respond if Duncan -- who has a sprained left knee -- cannot play?  'X' FACTOR

The Edge:

Could get a massive inspirational boost from the return of Kidd, who has missed the past month with a broken left ankle. 
Burns' Prediction: Spurs in 5

Sports Illustrated staff writer Marty Burns covers pro basketball for Look for his columns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Click here to send Marty a comment.

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