G U A R D S
Gary Payton challenged Tony Parker out on the perimeter, but was proven a step too slow in keeping the youngster from penetrating. While Payton let Parker get around him, the Sonics bigs were not there to disrupt the shot, leading to a series of layups. With Tim Duncan out, the Sonics big men should be able to keep an eye on the slippery Frenchman.
Throughout the first three games of the series, Bruce Bowen has lived up to his reputation as a ferocious defender. He was recently named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the second time. His crosshairs have been trained firmly on Brent Barry and Bowen has delivered. Bones has averaged just eight points per game in the series, well off his 14.4 average in the regular season. With Duncan and David Robinson out, Bowen will not have the luxury of a shot blocking machine to bail him out, that could lead to a breakout from Barry. Steve Smith has yet to come out with one of his patented offensive explosions. He will be called upon to pick up the Spurs scoring slack.
F O R W A R D S
Desmond Mason has yet to have a big game in this series. He has been unable to get to the hoop with any regularity because of Duncan's shot-blocking presence. He has settled for jumpers, which he has hit with some regularity. He is shooting 46 percent in the playoffs. Ansu Sesay will probably see extended minutes with the Sonics thin up front. The Spurs may be without Danny Ferry who is questionable with a sprained wrist. With the Spurs front court depth already lacking and Bowen not much of an offensive threat, losing Ferry's shooting touch and veteran savvy could be the last straw.
Vladimir Radmanovic is still recovering from a sprained toe on his right foot, but the rookie may be the Sonics best bet at the power forward spot. Rashard Lewis will not play and Vin Baker has been starting at center. Radmanovic has scored just nine points in the series, and is clearly not at full speed. Olumide Oyedeji may seem some spot minutes because of his size. Malik Rose, while undersized, brought a giant-sized effort in game three, posting 14 points and nine boards in 35 minutes. He will need to play well above his 6-7 frame to contend with the Sonics bigs.
C E N T E R
If Vin Baker brings the effort he displayed in games one and two, this will be the Sonics biggest mismatch. Mark Bryant and the little-used Cherokee Parks, the league leader in tattoos, will be called upon to hold down the middle while the Spurs twin towers are out of action. Baker is bigger, faster and stronger than either man and should be able to score a ton of points down low. Jerome James should also be able to exploit the Spurs with his interior presence.