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SPUR NOTES

Road Test Doesn't Bother Them

May 08, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — If the San Antonio Spurs were concerned about heading to Staples Center, and away from the raucous SBC Center, for Games 3 and 4, they weren't showing it Wednesday.

Perhaps the Spurs' 27-14 road record during the regular season, tied with the Dallas Mavericks' for the league's best, had something to do with their confidence.

"When we go on the road and we go into another team's gym, we feel like we do at home," guard Stephen Jackson said. "We set the tone. We set the pace. We have confidence in our defense. If we play defense like we can, we have a chance to win any game. Home or road, our game is predicated on defense."

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich had another theory.

"Maybe we're just a good basketball team," Popovich said with a shrug and a faint smile before Game 2.

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Manu Ginobili surprised courtside observers when he swept past Laker Mark Madsen for a reverse dunk early in the fourth quarter of Game 1.

R.C. Buford, San Antonio's general manager, wasn't one of them.

Ginobili, who is generously listed in the team's media information as 6 feet 6, has had better dunks, according to Buford.

"Once, when he was playing in Italy, the ball bounces off the back of the rim and goes above the square [on the backboard], and he goes up and tip dunks it," Buford said. "It was as good as a dunk as you'll ever see in the NBA."

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Ginobili, 25, began playing professional basketball in his native Argentina in 1995 before moving to Italy to play in 1998 and earning Italian League MVP honors in 2001 and 2002. The Spurs drafted him in 1999 and signed him before the 2002-03 season.

"He's not really impressed by all this," Popovich said, referring to the hype and glory of the NBA playoffs. "He's not really a rookie. He's played in all the big games in Europe. You're talking about people with guns circling the court. You're talking about smoke-filled gyms with all that nationalistic fervor."

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Ginobili likes where the NBA three-point line is, three feet beyond the international line.

"The players are so much farther from the basket, and it makes more room for penetrating," he said. "It's really tough. It's incredible. There are only a few players who shoot it [well]. Kobe [Bryant] was amazing ... the other night."

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