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TRANSITION GAME LONNIE WHITE

Bigger Spurs Will Need to Do Better

May 13, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

An hour after losing Game 4 to the Lakers Sunday, most of the San Antonio Spurs walked to their team bus with solemn faces. Bruce Bowen looked as if he were at a funeral; Malik Rose wore the expression of someone whose wallet had been stolen, and Tony Parker inched along as if he were lost in a big city.

One player who didn't seem sad at all was smiling center David Robinson, who must have been happy to be returning to San Antonio after accounting for only four points and seven rebounds in the Spurs' two Staples Center defeats.

With the best-of-seven series tied at 2-2, Robinson has to be more productive, as do fellow big men Kevin Willis and Rose, in helping out Tim Duncan, who's been Mr. Everything for the Spurs.

Whenever Duncan was on the bench in the two games at Staples, the Lakers dominated. But in winning the first two games of the series at the SBC Center, the Spurs were a different group, especially Robinson, who made seven of 13 shots and averaged 7.5 rebounds.

A breakdown of Game 5:

SAN ANTONIO'S MOVE -- Although the Lakers switched to single coverage on Duncan in Games 3 and 4, they still sent a second defender at him whenever he started his move into the lane. It has usually been the Laker who was on Parker, Bowen or Speedy Claxton. Look for the Spurs to get back to making the extra pass around the perimeter to take advantage of the Lakers' late-arriving double-teams. It will then be up to the Spurs' open players to do something productive with the ball and not force shots.

When the Lakers made their big run in the third quarter Sunday, Duncan was out of the lineup with foul trouble and the Spurs' interior defense fell apart. San Antonio's big men did not do a good job of cutting off the Lakers' penetration, which Duncan does so well.

Offensively, when Duncan doesn't have the ball, the Spurs can't be timid about driving to the basket because Shaquille O'Neal is there. By being more forceful with the ball, San Antonio will find more open shots because the Lakers still do not rotate well.

The Spurs have to remember that home crowds often influence officials and they will only help themselves by attacking the rim. That's primarily why the Lakers ended up with 45 free throws in Game 4, compared to the Spurs' 26.

LAKERS' MOVE -- In the first half of Game 1 and part of the third quarter Sunday, Kobe Bryant dribbled too much and forced shots. But it wasn't always his fault because his teammates did more standing and looking than cutting to an open area. Devean George, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher have to compel themselves to stay involved in the offense because if they don't, Bryant will not hesitate to take it upon himself to score. That's how the Lakers lost Games 1 and 2.

O'Neal may have had an off shooting game Sunday -- he missed 11 of 17 shots -- but he did the little things that win championships. Not only did he make 17 of 23 free throws, but he took 10 of his 17 rebounds on the offensive end. He also had five assists, four blocked shots and numerous deflections. This is the time of the season when he usually displays his dominance, so expect another effort like that tonight.

Somewhat overlooked in their Game 4 victory was the play of reserves Samaki Walker and Slava Medvedenko, who were active around the basket and even played some defense.

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