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LAKERS VS. SAN ANTONIO / CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

First Look

May 02, 2003|Tim Brown

Best-of-seven series

Spurs hold home-court advantage

GAME 1 -- MONDAY

at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 9

GAME 2 -- WEDNESDAY

at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 9

*--* FORWARD

*--*

* Tim Duncan averaged 21.3 points and 16.3 rebounds in four regular-season games against the Lakers, all Spurs' victories, but shot only 34.6%, and 69% from the line, in the series. Duncan, who could be the league most valuable player, also averaged nearly four turnovers a game. The Lakers will run Mark Madsen and Robert Horry against Duncan early, but Shaquille O'Neal occasionally will get the late-game matchup if he stays out of foul trouble. Bruce Bowen, quick and tall enough to stay reasonably close to Kobe Bryant, starts at the other forward. He is not a serious threat offensively and is not a good free-throw shooter. Malik Rose does forward things, but against the Lakers will come off the bench and get a lot of time at center.

*--* CENTER

*--*

* David Robinson missed Game 2 of the Spurs' first-round series against the Phoenix Suns because of a cartilage tear in his left knee, which is supposed to be his good one. He had trouble with his right knee all season. Coach Gregg Popovich tries to limit Robinson, who will retire at the end of the season, to about 25 minutes. Kevin Willis and Rose also play center -- Willis for his fouls against O'Neal; Rose for a decent mid-range jumper and his ability to bother O'Neal with his lower-body strength.

*--* GUARD

*--*

* Kobe Bryant averaged 31.5 points per game against the Spurs, so Bowen will need help. Rookie Manu Ginobili will relieve Bowen, though it hasn't yet made a difference. Point guard Tony Parker had a mercurial series against the Suns, first getting burned by Stephon Marbury in the early games, then scoring 29 points, a playoff career high, and 19 points in Games 3 and 4. He averaged 14.5 points against the Lakers, including a fluke game in October when he missed all 10 of his field-goal attempts. If he falters, Speedy Claxton will get those minutes. Stephen Jackson, a streak shooter who in four games against the Lakers made 12 of 15 three-pointers, starts at shooting guard.

*--* COACHING

*--*

* Popovich was the NBA's coach of the year after the Spurs won 60 games and were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. After years spent insisting on a half-court game, primarily because of Duncan and his post-up skills, Popovich cut the Spurs loose in the second half of the season, and they excelled. He has held the team together through its now annual postseason defeats to the Lakers. Phil Jackson is 2-0 in playoff series against the Spurs, a sweep in 2001 and in five games last year.

*--* ANALYSIS

*--*

* The Spurs swept four games from the Lakers in the regular season, but the momentum might come from past postseasons, when the Lakers were dominant. O'Neal takes great pleasure in beating up on Robinson, and the Spurs have no answer for Bryant.

-- Tim Brown

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