Spurs lose, face up to must-win game

Playing the Jim Bowie role, the sickly guy, wounded but trying to get in the fight -- that would be David Robinson. The fearless guy with the rifle swinging, overwhelmed with invaders coming seemingly from every direction -- that would be Tim Duncan.

As the San Antonio Spurs return home Tuesday for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals tied 2-2, analogies to the last stand at the Alamo will be common.

And, in some sense, it is a last stand for the Spurs this season because they lost the last two games in this series. Does anyone really believe the Spurs can lose Game 5 and then return to Los Angeles to defeat the Lakers?

Especially now with coach Phil Jackson back with the team after undergoing heart angioplasty that caused him to miss Sunday's game?

"We're going to go home and get that game and come back and try to finish it," said Davy Crockett, er, Duncan after the Spurs' loss in Game 4.


That game appeared to be the Spurs' big chance. They had an early 16-point lead, Jackson was out and the Lakers were down in the series 2-1. But Duncan got in foul trouble and the Lakers shot 45 free throws, a season high by eight for any Spurs' opponent. With Duncan off the floor, the Spurs were outscored 30-9.

"We have one star, that's Tim Duncan, and there's really not going to be someone else who's going to sustain us," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We have to do it as a group and ever since our new additions, sometimes it's not going to be the most wonderful thing to look at. So it puts a lot of pressure on our defense and our rebounding when Tim's not on the court."

As well as on the Spurs. Robinson was scoreless in Game 4, fouling out in 14 minutes. He is averaging 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. Tony Parker has slumped to 10.3 points and is shooting 34 percent, raising calls again in San Antonio for the Spurs to go after Jason Kidd after the season.

Or Jermaine O'Neal, who would give the Spurs an inside presence to support Duncan.

"Everyone knows that Tim is our offense," Parker said.

The consensus now is the NBA champion will come out of the Lakers-Spurs series.

The Sacramento Kings had been the choice of many until Chris Webber went out with a knee injury. He says he hopes to return for the Finals, though he likely will have to buy a seat.

The Kings series with the Dallas Mavericks, in which the Kings were heavy favorites, now has turned into a tossup after a thrilling double overtime Mavericks victory late Saturday night. The Kings did come back Sunday behind Hedo Turkoglu, who helped make up for Webber's loss.


Playing the second of a back-to-back Sunday night after double overtime, neither team scored 100 points, testament more to fatigue than defense. The Mavericks are averaging 30 three-point attempts per game and both teams more than 117 points even after Sunday's walk through.

"I think it'll be a seven-game series," Kings guard Bobby Jackson said. "I don't want it to, but I think it will be."

It also might be a seventh game in the Lakers-Spurs series because the Lakers haven't won yet in the Spurs' new SBC arena.

"Playing them at home in the past, it seemed they played uptight," the Lakers' Derek Fisher said. "But at their new home they seem real comfortable. It's the same as us with our new home. We haven't lost a championship since we moved (to Staples Center)."

Meanwhile, after getting 35 more free throw attempts than the Spurs in the two games in Los Angeles, it's likely the Spurs again will have a free-throw edge, as they did in the first two games at home.

Just coincidence.

Sam Smith is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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