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At This Point, It's the Spurs

Parker outplays Kidd again and makes the big shots as San Antonio rallies to regain home-court edge with a sloppy 84-79 victory.

June 09, 2003|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just which of these point guards is it that the San Antonio Spurs want to give $100 million again?

Tony Parker, their 21-year-old incumbent, is more than holding his own against Jason Kidd, whom the Spurs once coveted. Parker outscored Kidd, 26-12, Sunday night as the Spurs defeated the New Jersey Nets, 84-79, to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

For the series, which continues Wednesday night, it's Parker 63 points, Kidd 52. Parker is shooting 46% and after Sunday night's six-for-19 effort, Kidd is at 35%.

In one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA, the Spurs, who will have $14 million worth of cap space this summer, were planning on making a run at Kidd this summer, at least before this series started.

Now what's on their mind?

"Well, I think the point guard position is really important on a team and I think it's a position we are going to want to keep on the team," Spur Coach Gregg Popovich said.

"I think we should have a point guard. That's definitely something I think every team should have. Did I answer your question?"

No, but these days, the question is answering itself.

For his part, Parker says Popovich won't discuss it with him, either.

"Well, he never talked to me, not much about free agency," Parker said. "A lot of things can happen in the summer.... You know, the NBA is a business and I can't let that affect me."

Remarkably, it hasn't affected Parker, nor has anything else. Champions aren't supposed to be run by 21-year-old second-year point guards, whether they're from Paris or Harlem, but here he and they are, two wins from paydirt.

Nor is Parker the one who's supposed to be rescuing them when things are looking grim, as they did Sunday night when the Spurs stunk out Continental Airlines Arena and the Nets led by eight points in the third quarter.

For people who wondered if the Spurs could play any worse than they did in the first half of Game 2, here came Game 3.

Popovich joked before the game about their weaknesses -- "We developed a new free-throw technique and we did some non-turnover drills and I'm sure we won't have any problem in either area" -- before his team went out and started kicking the ball around the lot again.

Try eight turnovers in the first quarter, a bad sign. Only the fact the Spurs can defend and the Nets aren't as explosive when Kidd is missing kept the Spurs within 21-15 after one quarter.

At the half, it was Spurs 33, Nets 30 -- a new scoring low for a half in the NBA Finals, including the first seven, from 1948-54, before there was a shot clock.

With Tim Duncan struggling -- he turned the ball over five times, with Kenyon Martin snatching it right out of his hands twice -- the Spurs seemed to be slipping away in the third quarter, but Parker knocked down two late three-point shots, cutting the Nets' lead to 57-54 after three quarters.

Then Parker scored 10 of the Spurs' points in a 13-2 run that sent them ahead to stay.

The end was almost as inglorious as the beginning. The Nets were within 78-75 with 1:04 left when Parker went to the line to shoot two free throws ... and missed both. But Duncan sneaked around Martin, rebounded the second miss and moments later, Manu Ginobili made a 15-footer as the Spurs eased off the hook.

"He slipped off of me," said Martin, who'd been trying to block Duncan out. "I thought I had a body on him, but he slipped off. That kind of hurt a little bit."

It hurt a lot. This was the Nets' chance. The Spurs were not only beatable Sunday night, the Nets were beating them.

Popovich, who thought he was rebuilding this season with a young team and an outgoing David Robinson, was asked what it's like to be competing at this level, instead.

"It's fun for them and it's a life-shortening experience for me," said Popovich, laughing. "I'm being honest. I think I have about a week left."

The Nets may not have that much time left, even if they were, as someone suggested to Martin, right there.

Said Martin: "Right there ain't going to get it done."



J.A. Adande: Because of playoff format, we're stuck with a series that gets worse by the game. D9



A Low Point

The fewest total points scored in a half in a NBA playoff game since the 24-second shot clock was introduced for the 1954-55 season (NBA Finals shaded):

*--* Pts Teams Date Half 60 Boston (29) vs. Detroit (31) May 10, 2002 Second 60 Atlanta (29) at New York (31) May 24, 1999 Second 62 Utah (29) at San Antonio (33) May 9, 1998 Second 63 New Jersey (30) vs. San Antonio (33) June 8, 2003 First 63 Philadelphia (27) at Orlando (36) May 11, 1999 First 63 Utah (31) vs. Portland (32) May 20, 1999 First 63 Houston (31) vs. New York (32) June 8, 1994 Second 63 New York (31) vs. Miami (32) May 12, 2000 Second 65 Boston (32) at Philadelphia (33) May 1, 1977 Second 66 Charlotte (30) at Chicago (36) May 6, 1998 First 66 Utah (30) at Chicago (36) June 12, 1998 First 66 Lakers (32) vs. San Antonio (34) May 14, 1995 Second 66 Phoenix (31) at San Antonio (35) April 22, 2000 Second


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