Sunday, June 8, 2003

Nets plot to get physical with Duncan


Defensive strategy against big Spur might give Martin less responsibility

The Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The New Jersey Nets might have a way to slow Tim Duncan in the NBA Finals.

New Jersey limited Duncan to 19 points and 12 rebounds with an array of bumps, pushes, hacks and defenses Friday night, evening the best-of-7 series with an 87-85 victory in Game 2.

"We were a little more physical with him and kept him away from the basket," center Jason Collins said. "We came with the double team and made him pick up his dribble. That way, he couldn't find his teammates that easy."

The Nets will get a chance to see if the defense works as the series resumes tonight in New Jersey with Game 3.

New Jersey is 6-1 at home in the playoffs, winning its last five games.

If things stay the same, Duncan is going to see a number of defenders again, although former Cincinnati Bearcats star Kenyon Martin may not play the two-time defending MVP as much.

Martin got into foul trouble in the first two games, and the Nets were able to have Collins and Dikembe Mutombo muscle Duncan.

Several times, Duncan stared at the officials when he didn't get a call after either missing a shot or having the ball taken away.

"They did a great job of playing between guys, and they just found a way to kind of cut off the lanes," said Duncan, who had 32 points and 20 rebounds in Game 1. "I thought they were very good on defense."

The one thing the Nets did a lot better Friday was making sure Duncan felt pressure any time he got the ball close to the basket. Not only was he being bumped from behind, but the Nets were also "digging down" with nearby defenders to help out.

It's not actually a double team, but it looks and feels like one.

"We wanted to get it (the ball) out of his hands," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "That's what we do to any great post-up player."

Mutombo, who had played only 33 minutes in the first three rounds of the playoffs, was also huge. The four-time NBA defensive player of the year gave New Jersey a presence in the lane and forced the 7-foot Duncan to compete against someone 2 inches taller.

"He is their playmaker, and how he goes is how the Spurs go," said Mutombo, who got a postseason personal high of 20 minutes Friday. "We cannot stop him, but if we can find a way to slow him down, we are going to have great success in this series."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the Nets didn't do anything Duncan hasn't seen this season, although they may have played the defense better than most teams.

San Antonio didn't help itself. The Spurs had 21 turnovers and missed 11 free throws.

"We just didn't play smart," center David Robinson said. "You look at that first half, we drove and we tried to throw it through three guys. We were just giving the ball away. It was stupid stuff. That's not the way we play basketball."

The victory was the Nets' first in six NBA Finals games. They were swept by the Lakers last season.

NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO vs. NEW JERSEY (Best-of-7 series tied 1-1)

Game 1: S.A. 101, New Jersey 89

Game 2: New Jersey 87, S.A. 85

Today: at New Jersey, 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday: at New Jersey, 8:30 p.m.

Friday: at New Jersey, 8:30 p.m.

x-June 15: at S. Antonio, 8:30 p.m.

x-June 18: at S. Antonio, 8:30 p.m.

x-if necessary




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Nets plot to get physical with Duncan

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