Thursday, May 29, 2003

Spurs must learn to finish the job

The Associated Press

DALLAS - From classy David Robinson to unflappable Tim Duncan to charming Frenchman Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs are filled with model citizens. That's fine off the court. On it, Malik Rose thinks his team needs to show more of a mean streak.

"It's like, once we have a team down, we tend to give them life by not putting our foot on them and keeping them down," Rose said. "We smell blood, we're supposed to be going for the kill. But we have had tendencies to relax."

The Spurs did it again Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

In a game that could have clinched a spot in the NBA Finals, San Antonio was up by 19 points in the second quarter and still ahead 17 in the third, but wound up losing by 12, setting up Game 6 tonight in Dallas.

Although the Mavericks still trail in the series 3-2 and are likely to again be without leading scorer and rebounder Dirk Nowitzki, they're still playing. And that's all they care about.

"We feel as though anything is possible," Dallas point guard Steve Nash said. "If we just stay with it and allow ourselves to be in the game, we've got enough guys with the toughness to come through. We can push it to seven games and in a seventh game we've been there before."

Dallas knows a team facing elimination can win three straight because Portland did it against the Mavs in the first round. Dallas recovered to win Game 7, and won a deciding game against Sacramento in the second round.

The Mavericks likely will have to stretch the series another game for Nowitzki to return. The left knee he sprained in Game 3 was still achy Wednesday and coach Don Nelson said his 7-foot All-Star is "very doubtful" for Game 6.

SIXERS: The Trail Blazers turned down the Philadelphia 76ers' request to speak to Portland coach Maurice Cheeks as a possible replacement for Larry Brown.

Cheeks, who played for the 76ers for 11 seasons and was part of their 1983 NBA championship team, has been mentioned as a candidate for the vacancy.

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