Click and Roll has returned to duty every weekday for the playoffs. Stick with us throughout the postseason as Click and Roll will cover NBA Finals 2003 as only we can.
No Matter Who Wins, Big Men Do Cry
In the Nets' locker room, the tears came not from celebration, but from chagrin. Again, they had lost in the NBA Finals and this time, they were knocked out by a 19-0 run.
By the time the media was allowed into the Nets' locker room, it was nearly empty. In one corner, Kenyon Martin stood alone, dressing with his back to the large group.
He wanted them to disappear, as if keeping his back turned would make the rest of the world go away. Never has a 6-8, 235 pound man looked so small.
He slipped on his undershirt. He pulled his T-shirt over his head. He fiddled. He dawdled. They waited to ask him about his 3-for-23 shooting night.
The floor near him was littered with used towels and balls of athletic tape recently excised from ankles. Off in a side room, a buffet of Italian food had been laid out and the smell filled the locker room. With no one in it, the locker room was chilly with disappointment. A single running shower provided the only soundtrack.
Most of his teammates had dressed quietly and then sought privacy in the trainer's room where no reporters are allowed. Later, when Richard Jefferson met the press, he stood in the doorway of the trainer's room, knowing that if he wanted to remove himself, he could just step back into that sanctuary.
Champions, however, neither seek nor are they allowed sanctuary.
In the Spurs' locker room, there wasn't a soundtrack, just sound. A group of French journalists sang a song in their native tongue with their native son, Tony Parker.
Cameras bathed the room in white light and turned the place into a sauna. The floor was covered with plastic and noticeably free of athletic tape, because champions don't remove their shoes. They're too busy putting on championship T-shirts and hats. The bouquet of Champagne, the cologne of champions, filled the air. As they walked about, the winners carried the aroma with them.
Back in the Nets' locker room, Martin looked as if he wanted to walk out. But he knew couldn't. Realizing he wouldn't be able to leave without turning around and facing those with microphones at the ready, he draped a thin terry cloth towel over his head and sat down.
They switched on the camera lights and the microphones inched closer to his face, he hung his head and someone asked the first question.
The Nets' vocal leader on the floor was barely audible off of it. "It's over," he said.
Another question, another barely audible answer: "It doesn't matter how we lost. A loss is a loss."
Do you think Jason Kidd is coming back next year? This engendered his loudest response: "Next question!"
Why did you shoot like that? "Those are shots I make in every game."
What about the Nets' season, how do you feel about that? "We just came up short."
To his credit, Martin sat there and answered the questions until every one of the media members faded away.
Soon, other players started to emerge. Kerry Kittles, Dikembe Mutombo and Lucious Harris all sat in front of their lockers and began to talk about the pain of losing their second straight Finals, the hurt of watching the Spurs go on a 19-0 fourth quarter run and the uncertainty surrounding Kidd's status next year.
"We gave it all we had," Kittles said.
Just then, Nets coach Byron Scott walked in after meeting the media in a separate room. Martin had recently answered his last question and was headed toward the trainer's room. Scott stopped him, put his arm around Martin's shoulder and whispered in Martin's ear. Martin shook his head in agreement. Even in a locker room where questions were asked in hushed, funereal tones, no one could hear what was being said between the player and his coach.
Like a father does to a son, Scott put a hand behind Martin's neck and embraced him. As Scott continued to talk, Martin began to get tears in his eyes. Losing Game 6 and the series stung them both. They had the game and let it slip away. More than anything, they knew it was an opportunity lost.
And maybe that's what hurt the most.
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Kerr-ses! Steve Foils 'em Again
Against the Jazz in the 1997 Finals, Kerr nailed the series-winning shot in Game 6 after getting a pass from a double-teamed Michael Jordan.(NBA.com)
In the 2003 Western Conference Finals, Kerr drew the curtains on the Mavericks' season when he went 4-for-4 from three point range in Game 6 to help send the Spurs into the Finals. (NBA.com)
On Friday, against the Nets, he couldn't wait for Game 6 (which is Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, by the way). So he did his damage in Game 5 (for which some in the media are taking credit.) Kerr made the most of his nine minutes, hitting both of his shots, including a huge three-pointer in the fourth quarter. He also up-faked Jason Kidd and nailed a sweet 20-footer (a move and a shot you can see Kerr practice before every game during warmups) for his other field goal. Kerr also made a key steal down the stretch to start the rally. (San Antonio Express-News)
Kerr put a cap on what could soon be his fifth NBA title, a ring for each finger on one hand. By giving the Spurs a 3-2 series lead, he might as well have been wearing the four he has like brass knuckles the way he knocked out the Nets. (Washington Post)
Only twice since the NBA adopted the 2-3-2 format in 1985 has the Finals reached seven games. Both times the team returning home was down 3-2. In 1988, the Lakers returned home and won two straight to win their second consecutive title. In 1994, the Rockets returned to Houston down 3-2, but beat the Knicks in Games 6 and 7 to capture the franchise's first NBA title.
The Nets have quite a task in front of them. (Bergen County Record)
Is it impossible? No. But history, and the way this series has gone, has shown it to be improbable. Two on the road? To win an NBA title? That would be a miracle. (New York Post)
Then again, no team has won two games in a row in this series. So, if that's the case, the Nets are set for Game 6. Game 7 is another matter.
The task seems so daunting it has the Nets' Lucious Harris mixing his metaphors.
Q: Are they impossible odds?
The ride has been anything but smooth for the Nets. They shot 21 percent in the second quarter, 16 percent, if you took away their one fast break basket in that period. Kenyon Martin had the flu and played at half strength.
And while it has often been said the team with the best player wins the Finals, that best player never does it alone. Case in point this year. Duncan has help. Kidd does not.
Players such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Malik Rose and even Speedy Claxton have stepped to the fore for the Spurs. Richard Jefferson, Kerry Kittles and Harris have at times, but not nearly enough. (Newark Star-Ledger, Philadelphia Daily News)
To win these final two games, the Nets will need to return to the form that let them scorch through the Eastern Conference playoffs. They must play like no tomorrow, because for the Nets if they don't win, there is no tomorrow. Right, Harris?
"Game 6 you win or go home as they say in the NBA," Harris said. "You win or go home and you go fishing. So Game 6 is going to be most important.
"It’s all out."
Grumpy Old Men
The Nets got a much needed 77-76 win to tie the series at 2-2.
For the second time in their two series losses, the Spurs got a wide open look at a three-pointer that would have either won the game or sent it into overtime. In Game 2, Stephen Jackson's potential game-winner rimmed out as time expired. On Wednesday, Manu Ginobili's potentially game-tying three-point attempt, while wide open, really had no chance when it left his hand. (Newark Star-Ledger)
My editor, Nails, got a reprieve on his prediction of Nets in six.
NBA fans also got more of what they wanted, a little bad blood and a little more passion. (Newark Star-Ledger)
"We like to play physical," Kerry Kittles told the Star-Ledger. "We hope the game is tough. The Spurs, they don't want to play like that. They want to play pretty basketball. But they're not going to get (a chance) to."
So, if the series is to get more physical, then expect more of the same in Game 5. In Game 4, the teams combined to shoot 32.1 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from the three-point line.
"We have definitely set back offensive basketball about 15 years, both teams," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich at media availability on Thursday. "Both are good defensive clubs going after each other, and shots aren't falling for either team. I don't see any reason why that won't continue.
"I'm sure each of us would like to make more shots and we are going to certainly try. Right now, defense is sort of taking over for both teams without any doubt."
The teams also combined to earn five technical fouls and it was the old guys who were ornery. At 30, Jason Kidd was the youngest of the five -- Rodney Rogers, Dikembe Mutombo, Kevin Willis and Popovich were the others -- to get a technical foul. Popovich truly earned his. He was close to the free throw line when he was given his "T". (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"You get tired of seeing their face, playing against them," said the Nets' Lucious Harris. "The deeper you get in a series the more pressure is put on these games. We are out there fighting and both teams went into battle last night and we came out with the win."
It was good to see some passion from both teams. There were scrambles for loose balls, wrestling contests for jump balls, chagrined looks, spittle and Bruce Willis (no relation to Kevin). It looked as if these guys were playing for the most coveted title and the most precious pieces of jewelry in the basketball world instead of getting exercise with a lunchtime run. (Both NBA.com)
That's not to say we don't want both teams to shoot 50 percent from the field or to see some high-flying acrobatics, because we do. (San Antonio Express-News)
Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
"I think if you are a basketball fan, the game last night, to me, was a very thrilling game," Byron Scott said Thursday. "I don't care if it was 77-76 or 110-109."
And thanks to that passion and fight, especially from the Nets, NBA fans will get a series that will go at least six games for the first time since 2000. (New York Times)
That being said, the Spurs will need a better game from Tony Parker in Game 5. (NBA.com) Game 5 could truly be scary for another reason. It will be the 18th playoff game in NBA history to take place on Friday the 13th and only the second in Finals history. It will also be the first postseason Game 5 ever on Friday the 13th.
(Cue the spooky organ music.)
Yes, the last time the NBA had a playoff game on Friday the 13th, the Bulls topped the Jazz 90-86 in Chicago on June 13 to clinch their fifth title in seven years.
The only other time, and we always seem to come back to this series, the New York Knicks topped the Rochester Royals 79-73 on April 13 in the 1951 NBA Finals.
Both the Spurs and Nets have played on Friday the 13th in the playoffs and neither team was successful. In 1979, the Nets lost their second game of a three-game, first-round series to the Sixers on April 13. In 1983, the Spurs lost a road game to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals on May 13 and would eventually lose to the Lakers in six games.
Do these four games suggest any trends concerning NBA Finals 2003? No, but they are some interesting facts concerning playoff games on Friday the 13th.
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Game Four-Telling the Future
We would like to amend that line of thinking slightly for NBA Finals 2003. No game is more important in an NBA Finals series than tonight's Game 4 (8 ET, ABC). (NBA.com)
You don't need to take our word for it. Just ask Jason Kidd. (Denver Post)
History shows Kidd is correct. If the Nets lose, they're down 3-1, needing to win three games in a row, including two in San Antonio.
(An aside: My editor, Nails, is sticking with his prediction of Nets in six, which means he believes the Nets can win three in a row regardless. Remember, he does have a point. The Nets had a 10-game playoff streak entering the Finals.)
Still, no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. Of the 15 NBA Finals series to go seven games, 13 have been tied 2-2 after Game 4. Only two teams have even come close to erasing a 3-1 deficit. The Lakers fell behind 3-1 in the 1966 Finals, before, as they were destined to do in those days, they fell to the Celtics in seven. (NBA.com/history)
In 1951, the Knicks fell behind 3-0 before making a series of it against the Rochester Royals. The Knicks tied the series at 3-3 before losing Game 7. (NBA.com/history)
So, you can see why Game 4 is so important to both teams. For a chance at survival, the Nets must win. For a stranglehold on the series, the Spurs must triumph.
One writer believes the Nets must be more physical with Tony Parker. (Bergen Record)
Dikembe Mutombo concurs, and believes Game 4 is in the bag for the Nets. (Bergen Record)
Kidd is serious about correcting his wayward shot. How serious? He packed the family in the car and shot around for two hours on Tuesday night. (Newsday)
Here's one man's opinion on how the Nets can get back on the winning track. (ESPN.com)
But it's up to this man, Nets coach Byron Scott, to figure out how to make the Jersey offense go again. (Newark Star-Ledger)
It seems the Spurs have figured out how to stop it. Will they tell us how they do it? Yeah, right. (Newark Star-Ledger)
Well, this is one way they have: the zone. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
And if the Spurs do take a 3-1 lead, then maybe this* can go away. Not that they're bitter or anything. (San Antonio Express-News)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Broken Fast Break
One of the bigger story lines of NBA Finals 2003 so far, is New Jersey's inability to get out on the fast break against the Spurs. (NBA.com)
It is true that the Nets have outscored San Antonio 51-29 on the break in three games, but consider what the Nets did in their sweeps against the Celtics and the Pistons. In the Boston series, New Jersey outscored the Celtics 78-22 in transition and versus Detroit, the Nets were even better with a 94-15 advantage.
So, while the Nets have been able to fly on the break, they haven't been the frequent fliers they were in the previous two rounds. Why? Well, there are many reasons. (Kansas City Star)
The Spurs -- with Tim Duncan averaging 16 boards in the Finals -- rebound as well as the Nets, negating any advantage New Jersey had against the Celtics and Pistons.
Another reason is that the Spurs big men -- Duncan, Malik Rose and even the soon-to-be-retiring David Robinson -- are fast enough to either get back on the break or get into passing lanes and disrupt it. Or as one Nets fan put it: "Have you seen Tim Duncan? He's seven feet tall! And he can run!"
And once the Spurs stop the break, they fall back into a zone, for which Gregg Popovich hangs his head in mock shame. (San Antonio Express-News)
Like a kid being forced to eat vegetables, they may hate doing it, but they know it's good for them. (New York Times)
Maybe that's why shooting guard Kerry Kittles and small forward Richard Jefferson can't seem to get on track. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Lately, it seems Jefferson, a media favorite, has been taking it on the chin from, you guessed it, the media. (Boston Herald)
And then there's Jason Kidd, who seems to be able to do it all for the Nets. They still need more from him. (New York Times)
Everyone, and I mean everyone (I couldn't even begin to list all the links), has noticed that the guy Kidd is supposed to replace next year, Tony Parker, has outplayed Kidd in the Spurs' two wins. (New York Daily News)
That is why Game 4 on Wednesday (8 ET, ABC), is so critical. Says who? Well, the Nets for one. (Denver Post)
One columnist has a wry cure for what ails the Nets' offense. Unfortunately for the Nets, the answer (no, not that Answer) is down the Jersey Turnpike in Philly. (ESPN.com)
Finally, as for the Spurs not named Duncan or Parker? Danny Ferry is enjoying his first trip to the Finals, Rose is still pleased with his monster slam over Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Kerr loves being the center of attention on the floor ... during media availability. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Newark Star-Ledger, San Antonio Express-News)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
"Let me just say, it would be very different without him," Popovich said. "I don't know what else to tell you."
After the Spurs' 84-79 win over the Nets in Game 3, Pop could say the same thing about his point guard, Tony Parker.
Parker, who is a career 33.1 percent three-point shooter and was shooting only 21.4 percent heading into the Finals, has drained five of his 10 three-point attempts in three games, including 4-for-6 in Game 3. It is Parker, not Kidd, who is the point guard making the difference in this series so far. (New York Times)
One New York columnist was even more harsh, as New York columnists are wont to be, by saying Parker is taking Kidd to school. Or in this case, would it be the Lycée Française? (New York Post)
Of course, every day Parker has to face the question as to whether he thinks about free agency and the Spurs possibly signing Kidd in the offseason. Well, of course he thinks about it. Everyone keeps asking him. This columnist thinks Parker has handled the situation quite well. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
And as far as the Spurs' Game 3 win, which included only 58 made field goals, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Houston Chronicle)
After all, if you told someone that Duncan would take 13 shots and Parker would take 21, and the Spurs would still win on the road, you'd probably be sentenced to watch "The Best Damn Sports Show" 24/7 for the rest of your life. You don't want that, so you keep your predictions to yourself and smile knowingly.
As for the Nets, much like the knight in "Monty Python's Holy Grail" who has his leg cut off and declares, "It's merely a flesh wound," they're keeping the same positive attitude heading into Game 4 on Wendsday (8 ET, ABC). "It's a minor setback," Scott said. "We have two more games at home."
By that time, the Nets hope to have figured out the Spurs' zone, which limited the Nets to 37 percent shooting for the game. (New York Post)
After going through the turnovers and missed free throws in Game 2 and then experiencing the exultation of winning Game 3, Popovich has ridden the roller coaster with his very young team.
"It's fun for them and it's a life-shortening experience for me," Popovich said. "I'm being honest. I think I have about a week left."
And if the Nets aren't careful, so do they.
TIP INSSince this is an off day for NBA Finals 2003, we get a chance to put some tip ins into the mix.
So, what's been interesting in the NBA that doesn't have to do with the Finals?
Let's go to Salt Lake City, where they held a ceremony on Saturday honoring John Stockton, who is retiring after 19 seasons with the Jazz.
Karl Malone, Stockton's teammate for 18 years and one of the tougher guys in the NBA, was reduced to tears. (Salt Lake Tribune)
"I would like to say to John that he taught me more than the game of basketball," Malone said. "He taught me things as a person that will follow me the rest of my life. . . . I came here with a lot of doubt, being a kid from the South. And I met John Stockton. From day one, he never saw color.
"He gave me more than I gave him," Malone added. "I'm going to miss you. I'm going to miss you as a person. Thank you, and I love you."
The ceremony even had Jerry Sloan, among others, getting weepy. To Malone and Sloan, Stockton was more than the league's all-time assists and steals leader, he was a friend. (Salt Lake Tribune)
On the coaching carousel, it seems like Jeff Van Gundy has his choice between Washington and Houston. And he may make his decision as early as today.
The Raptors have their eye on former player and Bucks assistant Sam Mitchell. (MIlwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Could Tim Floyd, formerly of the University of New Orleans and the Bulls, be the next Hornets coach? (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
And finally: Tiger Woods, NBA owner? Maybe, says Sam Smith, if Michael Jordan needs another investor, to help boost his bid to buy the Bucks. MJ and Tiger, part owners of the Milwaukee Bucks. Who would have thunk it? That'd be some owner's box. (Chicago Tribune)
And to help Tiger keep sharp on the course while he's visiting his team in the greater Milwaukee area, we know some great places for him to play. (Wisconsin4golf.com)
Brown Deer Park Golf Club: Tiger should be familiar with this public layout. He made his debut as a professional here at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996. And at $40 for 18 holes, quite a bargain, if Tiger is looking to save some dough. (Golf.com)
Blackwolf Run, River: In the words of Homer Simpson, "Mmmmm, pretty!" About 55 miles north of Milwaukee, this is expensive for us commoners ($202, with a cart!), but well within Tiger's range. Hole No. 9 is a classic. (DestinationKohler.com)
Just across the highway lies Whistling Straits, home of the 2004 PGA Championship. Tiger can play practice rounds for the major. (DestinationKohler.com)
And then there's University Ridge in Verona, Wis., which is the home course for the University of Wisconsin. About 75 miles west of Milwaukee, this course is links style on the front nine and a traditional Midwestern wooded track on the back. Here, Tiger can use every club in the bag. (UWBadgers.com)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
More or Less
The Nets, who were dissed by the Spurs in Game 1 and felt dissed by the press after it, received a more inspiring performance from Jason Kidd in Game 2. (New York Daily News)
For the Spurs to be successful in Game 3, they need to be less charitable with turnovers. And with a nod to former Net Micheal Ray Richardson, whomever thought that the Spurs' ship be sinkin', they must remember one loss does not a series make.
Still, some old habits die hard. According to the Admiral, the Spurs be stinkin' because they're not thinkin'.
(OK, I'll stop now.)
"You feel stupid making 22 turnovers," David Robinson said. "Golly. I don't know how you expect to win games making 22 turnovers. That's just sloppy, especially in a game you know is going to be a low-scoring game.
"That's just stupid." (San Antonio Express-News)
No play epitomized the Spurs' brain lock more than one play at the end of the third quarter. After being down by as many as 15 in the third quarter, the Spurs had cut the lead to 10 and then played great defense to get Kidd to force a shot, resulting in airball with 2.0 seconds left.
Taking the ball out of bounds, Malik Rose proceeded to airmail the ball into the fifth row in an attempt to find Manu Ginobili at half court, giving the ball to the Nets under their own basket.
While the Nets didn't score, one had the feeling that if the Spurs continued to treat precious playoff possessions with such a cavalier attitude, then they would get a result less familiar to the Spurs and more familiar to the Cavaliers.
As elementary as it sounds, the more possessions a team has, the more chances a team has to score. It's that simple.
And against a team like the Nets who turn turnovers into points like Bill Gates turns software into money, the Spurs can ill afford to fall back into bad playoff habits, such as missing 11 of 25 free throws. (San Antonio Express-News)
With the loss in Game 2, the Spurs have suddenly made it hard on themselves as they had home-court advantage taken away from them on Friday. (San Antonio Express-News)
Still, the Spurs have hope. No team that has hosted the middle three games of the Finals has ever won all three. They need to go from generous host to rude guests. Odd are the series is headed back to Texas.
As for the Nets, Game 2 proved they can make the necessary adjustments to win. (New York Times)
And of course, another great performance from Kidd would be nice. (New York Daily News)
So, with the series tied 1-1, it's all up in the air. More or less.
TIP INSIn his State of the NBA address before Game 2, NBA Commissioner David Stern covered numerous topics ranging from Michael Jordan getting back into the NBA to a possible age limit to the coaching carousel. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, N.Y. Times, Miami Herald)
One of the more interesting statements by Commissioner Stern concerned NBA franchises in Europe. While not as dramatic as John Kennedy promising to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, Commissioner Stern noted that if the game continues to prosper, NBA teams may be taking road trips to Europe.
"I think that realistically, if there are new buildings in Europe and if our sport continues to grow, there is a good possibility that there would be NBA franchises in Europe by the end of the decade," Stern said.
Can't wait 'til that first New York Knicks-Paris Chevaliers matchup.
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Jefferson Helps Nets Put Game 1 Behind Them
After all, he didn't want to crush any of the verbal bouquets the media tossed to the Spurs moments before the Nets met the same horde at the SBC Center.
So when he stepped to the podium, he knew what was coming: What happened to the Nets? Is your confidence gone? Can you rebound from your 101-89 loss in Game 1 of NBA Finals 2003? (NBA.com)
Jefferson did the media crowd one better. He answered the questions before they were even asked, rolling off a four-minute monologue addressing, among many topics, Tim Duncan's dominance, rest or rust (thanks for the nod to Click and Roll, R-Jeffs), the Nets' transition game and what they were going to do differently in Game 2 on Friday (8 ET, ABC).
"What are we going to try and do the next game?" Jefferson asked himself. "Nothing, we just have to continue to play well. We do believe we can win this next game up here and go back up to New Jersey and be successful. So, if there are any questions that I haven't covered yet ..."
The Nets feel they have a right to answer such statements as "The Nets are done" with an arched eyebrow. (New York Times)
Heck, even the Texas governor dissed New Jersey. And we're not talking the Nets, we're talking the whole state. (San Antonio Express-News)
Regardless of the gubernatorial jab, Jefferson said the Nets' confidence hasn't ebbed one bit.
"None at all," Jefferson replied when asked if the Nets had any confidence knocked out of them. "We've won 10 of our last 11 games. That's the way we look at it. We've been successful on the road before and very successful at home. For us, it's just a matter of staying consistent and understanding that we struggled, basically for one quarter of the entire game."
As for their transition game, the Nets outscored the Spurs 17-11 on the break. For the Nets, the six-point advantage wasn't good enough.
"We just have to do a better job on the break," Jason Collins said. "We missed a lot of opportunities."
Jefferson said that the Nets need to get back to the basics in transition.
"We really believe that. We feel the only team that can stop our transition is our own team," Jefferson said. "Whether it's through turnovers or not playing good defense on the other end or throwing bad passes. We really believe that no one can stop our fast break."
Well, what about adjustments for Game 2?
"I can't tell you that," Jefferson said, "because if I tell you that, they're going to change their adjustments and then it'll just be a whole storm of things."
Speaking of storms, when Jefferson put a moratorium on Duncan questions, one reporter asked him: "What's the offbeat question you would ask yourself?"
"Why is it that every city we go to has bad weather?" Jefferson said. "It rained the whole time we were in Detroit. It rained the whole time we were in Boston. It rained the whole time we were in Milwaukee and now it's raining here in San Antonio. And it was raining the whole time we were home."
Someone followed up: Isn't that a good omen?
"It is. It's the weather that makes us confident."
Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Rust Never Sleeps
The New Jersey Nets hope the carbonated atmosphere of NBA Finals 2003 will help them shake the rust from bodies that will have gone nearly one week and a half since sweeping the Pistons out of the Playoffs. (NBA.com)
(I know, I know, science geeks, that the active ingredient that eliminates the rust is phosphoric acid, but you can't call the Finals atmosphere "Phosphoric" or "Acidic." You can call it "Bubbly." After all, just look who's performing.)
Such is the blessing -- and the curse -- of New Jersey's rampage through the Eastern Conference. The Nets reeled off 10 consecutive wins and will wait 10 days to try for their 11th straight win in Game 1 against the Spurs on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
When asked during media availability on Tuesday if his squad thought about their prodigious roll, Nets small forward Richard Jefferson said we (meaning the media) think about it more.
"People started talking about when we won six, and we really didn't say anything about it," Jefferson said. "Then we won seven and didn't really say anything about it. We won eight, nine, 10 and we still haven't made a big deal about it. We have a feeling in some point and time we're going to lose, so you just try to continue to have fun with it."
Speaking of fun, Richard, let's try some trivia on you. Do you know who holds the NBA record for most consecutive playoff victories?
"No, I haven't done any research," Jefferson said.
The Spurs set the record of 12 when they won their only NBA title in 1999.
"Oh, that's cute," Jefferson said. "Are they going to try to hold on to their record? Is that what they're going to try to do?"
By the sound of it, yes, but that's not the thought process for the Spurs, who haven't played since May 29. They want to get off on the right foot in Game 1.
"I thought about this yesterday when I was shooting around, it's kind of weird to going from playing day after day, then, going to a long layoff. I think it's going to be something new for both teams," Spurs forward Stephen Jackson said.
"We're going to have to come out with a lot of energy at the beginning to shake that off so we won't get behind early."
Spurs forward Malik Rose knows that the Nets will be prepared.
"Coach [Byron] Scott, I'm sure he has those guys running through all kinds of sets," Rose said. "They might be tired of that, so they'll be looking forward to getting out on the floor.
"And Jason Kidd is so good, he'll get those guys going back to the way they were. They won 10 in a row, they're really rolling. It'll probably take them a quarter to get back where they were, and they'll be tough."
Nets' sixth man Lucious Harris feels the Nets are sharp and not stressed.
"I think we're going to be relaxed," Harris said. "That's how we're going to have to play. We have to come out aggressive and not play to lose and come out to win.
"Last year, we came out here and didn't know what to expect. It was overwhelming. Now, it's like we came here last year and this year, I think it's totally different and we're used to all this. You go through your whole career to get to this point and here I am two years in a row to try to win a ring."
One Spur, Steve Kerr, is going for his fifth ring. He thinks the momentum belongs to the Spurs.
"I think it does [work to our advantage]," Kerr said. "We had about nine days off one year with the Bulls when we played Seattle in the Finals. And we struggled, the first couple games.
"I don't think it helps at all to have that kind of time off and I like our position, having four or five days since the Dallas series. It's the perfect amount of time to sort of detox, and get a couple good days of practice as well. I think we're in the perfect spot. We had a couple days to recover from Dallas and three good days of practice."
As for Jefferson, he believes last year's Finals appearance will help the Nets.
"It's just another year of experience," Jefferson said. "I think last year, we were going against a team in the Lakers that nobody had beaten in two-and-a half, three years.
"It was tough, but I think now this year we're a little more experienced and more equipped to win this thing."
WHAT THEY'RE SAYINGSo, you don't like rust as the theme for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Fine, takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, right Malik?
"We have a lot of subplots in this whole battle for the championship," Rose said in response to the Jason Kidd-Tony Parker point guard matchup.
Rose speaks the truth. Let's see what other people are saying.
Tony Parker faced the media on Tuesday. When asked what team the Nets most resemble, he didn't hesitate.
"Phoenix," Parker said.
Here he said it on Monday, as well. (New York Post)
In New York, they're saying Jason Kidd needs to keep his focus. (New York Times)
Tim Duncan is The Man (read: NBA MVP), but he doesn't act like it. Maybe that's why the Spurs dig each other. (Washington Post)
Duncan, as you know, is money in the bank. (Newark Star-Ledger)
Now playing the role of Duncan (in Nets' practices) is Brian Scalabrine. Who's casting this movie? (Newark Star-Ledger)
The Spurs have been known to lose a couple of these during the playoffs. (Newark Star-Ledger)
And finally, here's who will stand at the center of the NBA universe! (New York Daily News)
Rob Peterson, NBA.com