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Spurs Go to Great Depths in Game 2

Ginobili's 17 points are a clear indication that San Antonio has a deeper bench.

May 08, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — Guard Stephen Jackson couldn't find his way around the court with a road map in the opening minutes Wednesday. He appeared tentative and out of sync two nights after going scoreless and missing all six shots he attempted.

No matter.

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich turned to his bench early in Game 2 of the Spurs' second-round playoff series against the Lakers. Manu Ginobili stood, tore off his sweats and jogged to the scorer's table a little more than 3 1/2 minutes into the game at the SBC Center.

Eight minutes later, the Spurs were rolling toward a 114-95 victory over the wafer-thin Lakers and a two games-to-none lead in their best-of-seven series. Ginobili's 10 points in the first quarter were more than the Laker reserves could manage until garbage time hit with a gale force in the fourth quarter.

Through three quarters, the Spurs' subs had outscored the Laker bench players by a whopping 29-5. The Spurs' edge was 45-28 by the final buzzer. That's one way to dethrone the three-time NBA champions. It also might be one of the ways the Spurs take a title of their own.

"The last couple of years, Sacramento has had the bench everybody wants," center David Robinson said. "Now maybe we have the bench everybody wants. I like our energy. I love to watch Manu. I'm proud of our bench. It's not a surprise. Our bench has been giving us what I've expected from them."

Ginobili scored 17 points on five-for-seven shooting with three rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes.

And there was more.

Speedy Claxton scored 15 points in 16 minutes. Kevin Willis had eight points and Danny Ferry five. Malik Rose, normally a bundle of energy, did not score in 19 minutes. He didn't need to get anywhere near his playoff average of 12.4 points for the Spurs to win.

And Tim Duncan didn't need to record a triple-double, although he came close. The two-time NBA most valuable player scored 12 points, took 13 rebounds and had seven assists in 33 minutes. But it was all secondary news, well behind the Spurs' bench play and forward Bruce Bowen's career-best 27 points.

Depth is what has given the Spurs a 2-0 series lead.

"That's the big difference in our team from last year to this year," Duncan said of the impact of the reserves. "If they play well, we play well. They are anxious to get on the floor. They're going to be a big part of our run."

If Jackson continues to struggle, the Spurs can always call on Ginobili to pick up the slack, although at this point, it would seem keeping him out of the starting lineup will be a chore for Popovich down the road.

"At times, our bench play is better than our starters' play," Robinson had said after Tuesday's practice. "There are few teams that can say that. We've gotten to a level where our bench has been great for us. To be honest with you, Manu is one of my favorite players to watch. He's a joy to watch."

Especially eye-popping was Ginobili's leaning jumper from the baseline, which bounced not once but twice on the top of the backboard before falling through the net to give the Spurs a 53-41 lead minutes before halftime.

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