Thursday, June 5, 2003

No drama, no doubt, just dominant Duncan

Gannett News Service

SAN ANTONIO - Game 1 gave absolutely no hint of any surprise to come in the NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs still looked liked the favorite. Tim Duncan still looked like the MVP. The East still looked like the East.

The Spurs struck first Wednesday night, with Duncan's 32 points and all-around elegance to beat New Jersey 101-89.

It was a thorough whipping - as plain as Duncan's 20 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists.

The Nets had hoped to steal an early shocker and put a crack in the theory of dominance of the Western Conference. But not by shooting 37.1 percent, including Jason Kidd's 4-for-17.

So ended the Nets' 10-game playoff winning streak. So continued their search for daylight in the NBA Finals. They are 0-5 the past two years. The East is 4-17 since 1999 and has lost nine straight.

The next chance is Game 2 Friday night.

The Nets were tormented not only by Duncan, but also other Spurs old and young, starter and reserve.

That was 37-year-old David Robinson with 14 points.

"He realizes this is his last series," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought he really dug deep and gave us everything his body could give us."

That was 21-year-old Tony Parker with 16, including nine in the third period when the Spurs hit 63 percent, did not have a turnover and turned a 42-42 halftime tie into a 74-59 lead.

"They picked it up a level. We never matched that level," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "They came out in the third quarter like they were down 10 points. We acted like we were up 10 points. We did an awful job in the second half."

The Spurs were so good, they didn't even suffer their customary wobbly finish. The team that had blown double-digit leads in six playoff games - losing five of them - did not allow the Nets closer than nine in the fourth quarter.

If New Jersey is to cause San Antonio trouble, the Nets need some things to quickly change.

Start with shooting. Kidd made his first two shots, then missed his next nine and never was much of a factor after that. He finished with 10 points, although adding 10 assists.

"Some nights, people don't make shots," Popovich said. "I don't think we did anything particularly well (to stop him)."

There was the shackled transition game. New Jersey scored only 17 points off the fast break, only 10 after the first quarter.

The Spurs got back when they had to and committed only two turnovers in the second half to cool the Nets' jets. Plus, it's hard to start a fast break when you're taking the ball out of the bottom of the net.

It all left Kenyon Martin as the only New Jersey factor, with his 21 points.

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