From left to right, San Antonio Spurs Manu Ginobili, of Argentina; Tony Parker, of France, and Tim Duncan watch the final moments of their game against the Seattle SuperSonics from the bench onSunday, May 15, 2005, in Game 4 of their second round playoff series in Seattle. Duncan led all scorers with 35 points, Parker had 12 and Ginobil had 15 but the Sonics won, 101-89.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
SAN ANTONIO This time last year, Ray Allen and several buddies were watching television in a Las Vegas hotel room when they came across Game 5 of the Spurs-Lakers series. Allen doesn't like watching playoff games he's not in, so he went into another part of the room and began ironing his clothes.
When the score was close in the final minutes, Allen couldn't resist. He returned to the sofa and saw one of the greatest finishes ever, with Los Angeles' Derek Fisher taking an inbounds pass with 0.4 seconds left and making a long jumper as the final horn sounded.
''We jumped up and screamed, like Derek Fisher was our best buddy and we'd just won the championship,'' Allen said, laughing about how caught up in the moment they were.
Fisher's shot only won the game, but it essentially won the series. San Antonio never recovered and was eliminated with four straight losses after building a 2-0 lead at home.
Now the Spurs are halfway to going down the same way, this time to Allen and the Seattle SuperSonics regardless of whether there's another dramatic shot.
San Antonio dominated the first two games of the series, winning by 22 then 17. Then the games shifted to Seattle and so did the results. After a close win, then a convincing one, the Sonics are back in San Antonio hoping to continue their roll.
''You do your job and good things happen,'' Allen said Monday, sitting across the court from the basket Fisher's shot went through.
This is the third straight year the Spurs have gotten to Game 5 of the second round by following the same script: Blow through the first round, then take the first two games at home and spark talk of a sweep, only to go on the road and lose the next two before coming back home.
It worked out fine two years ago, but just barely. The Spurs let a huge, late lead in Game 5 dwindle enough that a last-second 3-pointer by the Lakers would've won it. The ball went in and around, but not down. San Antonio had escaped, and went on to win the championship. Then there was last year's disappointment, made worse because right before Fisher's shot the Spurs had their own miraculous basket by Tim Duncan.
''That goes to show you, nobody remembers second place,'' Allen said. ''If his had come at the end of the game, that's the one everybody would be talking about.''
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich certainly remembers all the details. He's just not dwelling on any of them.
''Different bodies, different situations, different teams,'' he said Monday. ''It's nothing I'll look at.''
Popovich has plenty else to worry about after his team's miserable performance in Game 4. The Spurs matched their most turnovers of the season with 23 and let the Sonics make 50 percent of their shots, the highest against San Antonio this postseason.
''Timmy Duncan played hard and smart, but he didn't have anybody join him,'' Popovich said, referring to Duncan's 35 points and 10 rebounds. ''He must have felt pretty lonely.''
Allen led Seattle's offense as usual, but had plenty of help. Antonio Daniels kept up his serieslong roll, plus Luke Ridnour and reserve Damien Wilkins made big contributions. Making it all even more impressive was that the Sonics played so well despite All-Star forward Rashard Lewis being out with a sprained big toe on his left foot.
Lewis received treatment Monday and coach Nate McMillan said he'd wait until game time before deciding whether Lewis will play. McMillan said Lewis would start if he can go at all, but he also has the luxury of being cautious because he knows there will be a Game 6 in Seattle on Thursday night.
Without Lewis, the Sonics often played three guards. McMillan said he's not tempted to stick with it.
''We went with what we had to go with,'' he said. ''We don't talk about who was on the floor as opposed to what we do on the floor. The focus and the concentration is what those five guys are doing and their execution.''
The Spurs may have a lineup change.
Popovich said he's considering starting Manu Ginobili for the first time since the playoff opener, which likely would send Brent Barry back to the bench. His minutes could be cut further if Popovich opts to use Devin Brown, as he did the last game.
Game 5s of a 2-2 series are pivotal. There have been 123 of them in NBA history, and the winner has taken the series 103 times, or 84 percent. It's worked out in all three cases this postseason.
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