It's a well-known fact that the San Antonio Spurs have had the number of the Utah Jazz since before the turn of the century — especially in Texas.

Utah hasn't won a game in San Antonio since February 1999, the lockout-shortened season, in the Alamodome. The Jazz have never won a game at the new AT&T Center, which opened in 2002. For the Jazz to win their best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series against the Spurs, they will have to win at least one game in that building since San Antonio has the homecourt advantage.

But that hardly means the Spurs are feeling overconfident against the Jazz.

Their coach and their superstar won't let them.

Both Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan have too much respect for Utah and its coach.

"It's well-known how I respect (Utah's) program," Popovich said Friday night after his team had clinched its series over the Phoenix Suns. "A lot of times we try to model what we do after what they do. They are the best-executing team in show business. They're tough, they're hard-nosed, they play for 48 minutes. They run, they play half-court.

"It will be another big-time challenge, and we expect a great series again, like this one."

Duncan, the three-time NBA Finals MVP knows exactly what to expect from a Jerry Sloan-coached team.

"(The Jazz are) playing excellent basketball," said Duncan. "We have to be ready for execution and physical play. ... Coach Sloan always has them playing the best they can."

Utah may have an advantage in Game 1 this afternoon after having a few days off from game action to heal some bumps and bruises.

The Spurs, on the other hand, had just a day-and-a-half to prepare for the Jazz after a tough series against the Suns that ended late Friday night.

"It's like a back-to-back," said Duncan of playing the Jazz today. "We have to get ready really quick."

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While the Jazz haven't won in San Antonio since '99, they can at least take some comfort in knowing that they split the season series this year. Utah won both games during the regular season played at EnergySolutions Arena.

Of course, it was a different story in San Antonio. The Spurs won the games in Texas by an average of 16 points.


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com