Even without Duncan, Spurs put up good fight in win over Sonics
There's blood in the water, and the sharks are swirling around the San Antonio Spurs, who had been considered the favorites to represent...
Seattle Times staff reporter
SAN ANTONIO — There's blood in the water, and the sharks are swirling around the San Antonio Spurs, who had been considered the favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
Once Tim Duncan went down with a severe right ankle sprain last month, the Spurs appeared vulnerable. Their vaunted defense had allowed an average of 93 points — a five-point increase from their season average — without the two-time MVP forward.
And championship dreams in Phoenix, Dallas and Seattle seemed to grow brighter each day Duncan remained on the injured list.
"Tim is a big part of what they do. You don't write in a W, but the game changes," coach Nate McMillan said before last night's game against San Antonio. "More so on the defensive end than on the offensive end. ... They are not as strong as they are with Tim, and that's understandable."
As if to prove their defensive mettle without Duncan, San Antonio swatted the Sonics all over SBC Center last night during an 89-76 victory in which they never trailed and led by as many as 22 points in front of a crowd of 18,797.
That put on hold any thoughts the Sonics had about catching the Spurs, who improved to 53-18 and remain in second place in the Western Conference standings. Seattle (49-22) fell four games behind San Antonio with 11 remaining.
"We allowed them to basically bully us around all night, and I have no idea why we let this team bully us like that," center Jerome James said. "We kicked their behinds the first go-around, and they come bully us around like this now. I can't really give an answer.
"I think (San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich) is trying to send a message, and his team responded. They didn't seem like they were worried about us and seemed like they are trying to chase down Phoenix for the best record in the NBA."
The Sonics were bruised and bickering with officials for calls that never came. It was more reminiscent of last season's battles with San Antonio than Seattle's two victories over the Spurs at the start of this season.
Last night, the Spurs tied the season series at 2-2 by doing what they do best.
"They beat us up," said Ray Allen, who sat in front of his locker after the game while trainer Mike Shimensky and a Spurs doctor looked at his swollen left wrist. "This is what the playoffs are going to be like."
The brief examination revealed no major damage, but Allen will likely be re-evaluated today in Seattle.
Allen was asked if Bruce Bowen caused the damage, and even before he replied, "Yep," it was obvious because the San Antonio forward had shadowed Allen everywhere on the court.
In the two previous games Allen had played against San Antonio this season, the Sonics guard averaged 26.5 points.
Last night, he had 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting and missed all three three-pointers.
"It's always physical," Allen said. "This game wasn't any different from any other one. It's a dogfight. It just depends on how well you respond to it."
Allen's struggles only exacerbated the absence of Rashard Lewis, the Sonics' second-leading scorer who missed a second straight game because of a right foot abrasion.
The Sonics had five players score in double figures, but no one else picked up the scoring slack early on. Ronald Murray scored 13 of his team-high 17 in the fourth quarter.
From the start, the Sonics were out of sync and tallied just seven assists, which tied a franchise low. They also failed to score 80 points for only the third time this season, and they shot 39 percent from the field and 27.3 percent on three-pointers.
"They had better interior defense without Tim because it put more responsibility on other guys," said James, who scored a career high the previous night but managed just two points on 1-for-6 shooting last night. "They are not out there waiting for Tim to do everything. They did a good job of shutting down the paint tonight.
"Every time I touched the ball, I saw two or three people. So we settled for outside jumpers, and they weren't falling."
San Antonio raced out to a double-digit lead after seven minutes and led 51-35 at intermission.
Tony Parker did much of the damage, as he dashed past Luke Ridnour and found little resistance in the middle. The Spurs guard scored 16 of his game-high 28 points in the first half.
"Missing Danny Fortson was big for us," Allen said. "With him, if Tony Parker is driving down the lane, Danny puts him on his butt. I don't want to take anything away from what Reggie (Evans) was doing, but Danny just gives us another big body down there."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.