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NBA FINALS

Jefferson Struggling Mightily

June 11, 2003|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After averaging 15.5 points in his first season as a starter, the New Jersey Nets' Richard Jefferson was added to this summer's U.S. Olympic qualifying team alongside the likes of Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady, presumably because Jefferson is also so nice and so quotable.

On the other hand, the San Antonio Spurs don't care how nice he is. They've tied him up in the NBA Finals, holding him to 9.7 points a game and 35.5% shooting.

When not skying for lobs or flying out on the break, the game is harder for Jefferson.

"I'm very positive," he said. "You can't have one, two bad games and all of a sudden, start crying."

Of course, his teammates are sympathetic.

Said Jason Kidd: "Well, he'd better come up with something new if they know where he's going."

Or maybe they can start crying, after all.

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The Spurs have averaged 29 free throws to the Nets' 19. Of course, the Spurs are bigger and, with Duncan and David Robinson, they throw the ball into the post more than the Nets do with Kenyon Martin and Jason Collins.

Nevertheless, the Nets are complaining, from team President Rod Thorn -- who, as a league vice president, once announced fines on team officials who criticized referees -- on down.

"I mean, we've been a team all season long that's gone to the free-throw line a ton of times," Coach Byron Scott said. "In this series, for some reason, it's two to one [in favor of the Spurs], it seems like. And to me, a lot of that has to do with the officiating....

"I think Tim Duncan gets away with a whole lot of things on the defensive end that Kenyon Martin does not get away with and Kenyon Martin is one of the best defensive players in this league."

*

The Spurs say Malik Rose's windmill dunk over Dikembe Mutombo woke them up in the fourth quarter of Game 3, when they were eight points down.

Not that Mutombo thought it was so inspirational.

"The kid [Rose] got a dunk," Mutombo said. "And I saw the paper today, they're talking about it. I hope he comes my way with another one, he's going to see where it's going to end up. Trust me."

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