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Sports

Thursday, June 24, 1999

Towers get support, lift Spurs near title

By KEN BERGER
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK The San Antonio Spurs played like a championship team, with the emphasis on team.

For a change, the Twin Towers didn't stand alone.

With plenty of help for 7-footers Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the Spurs rediscovered their road magic Wednesday night with a 96-89 victory over the New York Knicks in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. They took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, a lead no team has ever relinquished in the final round.

From the shortest man on the court Avery Johnson all the way to Duncan and Robinson, the Spurs played like a team that is no longer content to stand around and wait for the 7-footers to carry them.

Now the Spurs have three chances to win one more time and give San Antonio its first NBA title.

"We have an opportunity to do something special, first time in San Antonio," said Mario Elie, who scored 18 points. "Hopefully, we can finish it off."

Duncan followed his worst game of the finals with a 28-point, 18-rebound performance. Robinson had 14 points and 17 rebounds, nine of them at the offensive end for the Spurs, who refused to let their six-game playoff winning streak on the road turn into a two-game losing streak.

Instead of standing back and admiring the big guys, Elie, Johnson and Sean Elliott were there to make whatever shots, steals, rebounds or passes the Spurs needed to keep the resilient Knicks coming back and tying the series.

Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said, "Size does matter in this league."

Not on this night. Not to the Spurs, and not during the crucial final moments of what the Knicks tried to turn into one of the biggest victories ever recorded in Madison Square Garden.

Instead, it turned into one giant step for the Spurs and another disappointment to add to the Knicks' postseason lore.

"This is the ultimate challenge," said New York's Allan Houston, who scored 20 points, but had three of the Knicks' 11 misses as they got within two points, but no closer, in the final 5« minutes. "Our backs can't be any further against the wall than when you're down 3-1 in the finals."

The Spurs beat the Knicks in every way possible, whether it was Duncan with his back to the basket, Robinson soaring above the rim or Elie throwing down a dunk and talking trash with Spike Lee.

"Toughness, man. That's what New York City ball's all about," said Elie, who recovered from a terrible Game 3 and shot 6-for-9 in the arena that is five minutes from where he grew up. "Going to the basket hard, finishing the play, dunking on people and talking trash. That's New York City ball."



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