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The first three months of the 1998-99 season was lost due to a lockout, resulting in play beginning in February of 1999. The normal 82-game NBA season was cut down to 50, making it the first time in league history that games were cancelled due to labor issues.
Before the season began, Michael Jordan retired for a second time (though he would come back to the NBA before too long). The Bulls stumbled mightily, falling to 13-37 — the third-worst record in the league that season. While Chicago was falling, other teams began filling the contender void.
A new feeling arrived in Sacramento during the 1998-99 NBA season: Optimism. For the first time in 14 years in Sacramento, the Kings finished with regular-season record that was better than .500, and they did it with a flare that captured the league’s attention.
Forward Chris Webber, who came to Sacramento from Washington during the offseason, led the NBA in rebounds with 13 per game; rookie point guard Jason Williams was scintillating, bringing an electrifying, creative approach to the game that was reminiscent of a few moves not seen since the retirements of Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. The Kings had a lot of fun, and were a lot of fun to watch.
Still, in the end, this season will be remembered as the year Tim Duncan and David Robinson led the San Antonio Spurs to their first championship.
San Antonio earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs after finishing with a 37-13 record. Led by Duncan, the Spurs marched through the first three rounds of the playoffs with only one defeat. They added to NBA playoff lore with the “Memorial Day Miracle” in Game 2 of the West finals. With the Spurs trailing 85-83 and no timeouts left, Sean Elliott elevated over the sideline and nailed a 24-foot 3-pointer as the Spurs won 86-85. The Spurs became the first former ABA team to reach The Finals.
In the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks went on quite a run of their own, becoming the first No. 8 seed to make it to the championship round. But without future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, who was out with an Achilles tendon injury, Duncan, who was named Finals MVP, powered the Spurs to a five-game series win.
Spurs guard Avery Johnson was the hero in the Spurs’ title-clinching win at Madison Square Garden by knocking down an 18-foot baseline jumper with 47 seconds left to clinch San Antonio’s win.
Although Duncan lost out to Utah’s Karl Malone for the regular-season MVP, he was the easy choice for Finals MVP.
Eastern Conference first round
New York defeated Miami (3-2)
Atlanta defeated Detroit (3-2)
Indiana defeated Milwaukee (3-0)
Philadelphia defeated Orlando (3-1)
Western Conference first round
San Antonio defeated Minnesota (3-1)
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Houston (3-1)
Portland defeated Phoenix (3-0)
Utah defeated Sacramento (3-2)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Indiana defeated Philadelphia (4-0)
New York defeated Atlanta (4-0)
Western Conference semifinals
San Antonio defeated Los Angeles Lakers (4-0)
Portland defeated Utah (4-2)
Eastern Conference finals
New York defeated Indiana (4-2)
Western Conference finals
San Antonio defeated Portland (4-0)
San Antonio defeated New York (4-1)
Points — Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (26.8)
Assists — Jason Kidd, Phoenix Suns (10.8)
Rebounds — Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings (13.0)
Steals — Kendall Gill, New Jersey Nets (2.7)
Blocks — Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat (3.9)
FG % — Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles Lakers (57.6)
FT % — Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers (91.5)
3PT % — Dell Curry, Milwaukee Bucks (47.6)
Most Valuable Player — Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
Rookie of the Year — Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors
Defensive Player of the Year — Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat
Most Improved Player — Darrell Armstrong, Orlando Magic
Sixth Man of the Year — Darrell Armstrong, Orlando Magic
Coach of the Year — Mike Dunleavy, Portland Trail Blazers
All-Star Game MVP — No All-Star Game played
NBA Finals MVP — Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs