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Archive for Saturday, June 14, 2003

Spurs topple Nets

Kerr sparks late run for San Antonio

June 14, 2003

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— Steve Kerr invented a new victory dance, a backward high-step he unveiled after yet another clutch shot.

The seldom-used player with four championship rings came through again for the Spurs, knocking down a pair of timely jumpers and making a key steal late in the fourth quarter as San Antonio defeated the New Jersey Nets, 93-83, Friday night to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals.

Kerr took only two shots and made them both to help the Spurs score 15 of the game's final 22 points. On his second shot, Kerr faked a jumper from the corner, took two dribbles to his right and knocked down a 15-footer on the run.

A smile plastered across his face, his backpedaled downcourt kicking his heels high in the air.

"My strut, a little Thomas Hearns. It felt good," Kerr said, referring to the former boxing champion.

It was the latest heroic postseason chapter for Kerr, whose resume from this postseason includes a 4-for-4 performance from three-point range in a 23-0 run the Spurs used to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals -- the victory that got them here.

The next step will be closing out the Nets, and the Spurs' first chance will come Sunday night at home in Game 6.

Game 7, if necessary, will be Wednesday in San Antonio.

Richard Jefferson reacts to a call in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The
Nets lost to San Antonio, 93-82, Friday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Richard Jefferson reacts to a call in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Nets lost to San Antonio, 93-82, Friday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Kerr is the only player on either roster to have played in a championship series that was tied 2-2, doing it in 1997 with the Chicago Bulls. He didn't enter the game until early in the final quarter, then displayed all the poise of someone who has done this many times before.

"More than anything, I have the experience of playing for 15 years to not get too nervous. I've done this a lot," Kerr said.

First came a three-pointer with 3:03 left to put the Spurs ahead 83-76, next came a steal from Kenyon Martin, and last came the running jumper and the backward high-step after his 15-footer made it 87-78 with 1:42 left.

"I was really nervous my first time in the finals in '96, and I did not shoot well. And I understand what's going on out there for a lot of the guys. You miss a few shots and it feels like the whole world's coming down on you," he said.

"As I said, I've been there many times and I've gotten over that nervousness. I'm to a point in my career now where you shoot if you're open and if you miss, you miss. But you just let it fly."

Tim Duncan carried the Spurs for most of the game with 27 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. Tony Parker and Malik Rose each added 14 points and Manu Ginobili had 12.

Jason Kidd scored 29 for the Nets, although only three of those points came in the fourth quarter when the Nets were hurt by five of their 16 turnovers.

Martin was terribly ineffective playing with the flu, finishing with four points, five fouls and eight turnovers -- four in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs had already been tied 2-2 twice in this postseason, winning Game 5 by 12 points against Phoenix in the first round and escaping with a 96-94 victory against the Lakers in the second round when Robert Horry's buzzer-beating three-pointer went in and out.

In this one, they played their best at the end of each quarter.

The Spurs closed the first quarter with a 10-4 run, scored the final seven points of the second quarter and then finished the third with a 10-1 run to take a 66-57 lead into the fourth.

After New Jersey pulled to 78-76 with 4:31 left, San Antonio scored 15 of the game's final 22 points.

Kidd had 12 points in the first quarter, none in the second and 14 in the third. He had five assists in the fourth quarter but did not attempt a shot.

"I think I played a pretty good game if this happened to be my last game here," said Kidd, who will become a free agent this summer. "I gave everything I had."

Martin, who had been sick for three days, missed the team's morning shootaround.

Down the stretch, his mistakes helped doom the Nets.

A 6-0 run by New Jersey midway through the fourth quarter pulled them to 78-76, and the Nets had a chance to tie after Parker missed a three-pointer. But Aaron Williams missed a short jumper from the lane, then fouled Duncan. His two free throws made it 80-76, and Kerr slapped the ball away from Martin as he dribbled and then dived on the floor for a steal.

Kerr then hit a wide-open three for a seven-point lead, and another turnover by Martin led to a breakaway layup by Ginobili. After Richard Jefferson made two foul shots, David Robinson stole a pass by Martin to set up the possession that ended with Kerr's runner.

"Steve was fantastic," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's the consummate pro. He comes on the court, he knows what we're doing. He's in shape, and he did a really fine job. Obviously, he was a huge factor down the stretch."

Kidd shot 5-for-11 in the first quarter while the rest of his team was a combined 1-for-8, but he took only two shots in the second quarter, missed them both and was scoreless.

San Antonio used its zone defense for the longest stretch yet in the series -- approximately seven minutes in the second quarter. Parker hit a three-pointer and Duncan scored on a baseline turnaround as the Spurs closed the half with a 5-0 run for a 42-34 lead.

The Spurs stayed ahead until Kidd hit a three-pointer, Stephen Jackson committed his fourth turnover of the game and 20th of the series, and Kidd posted up Speedy Claxton for a turnaround jumper that put New Jersey up 50-49 with 6:41 left in the third.

Duncan made two foul shots with 3:10 left in the third to give the lead back to San Antonio, and the Spurs held it the rest of the way.

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