Saturday, May 04, 2002

Duncan returns, San Antonio advances

Spurs 101, SuperSonics 78

Associated Press Writer

        SAN ANTONIO — The math in this equation is simple, and it's all related to Tim Duncan.

        No Duncan in Game 4 of the San Antonio-Seattle playoff series, and the SuperSonics win with ease. With Duncan back for Friday night's deciding game, the Spurs routed the Sonics.

        Duncan, just back from his father's funeral in the Virgin Islands, scored 23 points and blocked seven Seattle shots in leading San Antonio to a 101-78 triumph over the Sonics before a delirious crowd at the Alamodome.

        And afterward, a smiling Duncan, usually the stoic professional in victory and defeat, reached high into the stands to give high-fives to the Spurs faithful to pay them back for their exuberant cheers.

        With the victory, San Antonio advanced to a second-round matchup with the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and a chance to avenge last year's four-game sweep by the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

        “We're excited — there's no way to forget the sweep,” Duncan said of the best-of-seven series that starts Sunday at the Staples Center. “I feel we have as good a chance as anybody. We hope to jump on them.”

        Any worries about Duncan's frame of mind after the loss of his father William, who died Monday at age 71, evaporated within minutes Friday night.

        He scored six of San Antonio's first eight points and anchored a Spurs defense that kept the Sonics off-balance all night.

        “It's great to get back,” Duncan said. “It's a sanctuary out there (on the court). It's basketball, and you get away from everything else.”

        Antonio Daniels, who contributed 13 points for the Spurs, said Duncan did what his teammates expected him to do.

        “We feed off Tim, which we did all year,” Daniels said. “We continued to stay on them, we didn't let down.”

        Malik Rose added 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Spurs, while Tony Parker scored 15 and Steve Smith had 14 points and 10 boards. Duncan also had nine rebounds and seven blocks.

        Seattle was held to 10 points in the first quarter and 26 in the half, both record lows for the team in the postseason. They were outrebounded 53-39 and shot only 34 percent from the floor.

        “They hit the shots and we didn't,” said Gary Payton, who led Seattle with 23 points and nine rebounds. “We knew they would be playing on emotion, and it showed early on.”

        Brent Barry, with 12 points, was the only other Seattle player in double figures.

        “They came out so hard and so fast, we didn't have time to react,” Sonics guard Randy Livingston said. “Tim Duncan does make a difference.”

        For the fourth straight game, the Spurs played without David Robinson, who strained his lower back late in the regular season.

        San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said early Friday that Robinson's health improved and it was possible he'd play Game 5. But club officials said a pregame workout showed that the 7-foot-1 center hadn't healed enough to play, and his status remained day-to-day going into the Lakers series.

        Duncan started the scoring with a pair of free throws and Vin Baker tied it at 2 with a reverse layup at 9:43 of the first.

        San Antonio then went on a 21-4 tear over the next nine minutes capped by a dunk by Rose, who finished the period with six points and nine boards.

        Payton was the only bright spot for Seattle in the first half, accounting for 13 of the team's 26 points.

        Notes: Duncan's seven blocked shots tied his season high. ... After lighting up the Spurs for 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting in Game 4, Vladimir Radmanovic struggled to a 3-for-12 shooting performance and finished with seven points. ... The Spurs, who led the NBA in attendance this season, opened up 5,500 seats in the Alamodome's upper level to meet fan demand for Duncan's return. ... With Boston also winning Friday, the higher seed prevailed in all eight first-round series.


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