The San Antonio Spurs are a division champion in the NBA playoff's danger zone.
If they lose tonight to the Golden State Warriors, a team that finished barely over .500 in the regular season, the Spurs will find themselves fighting for survival in Game 4 of the first-round series Friday night. Both games are on the Warriors' home court."I think the Saturday game was an awakening for us," said San Antonio forward Sean Elliott, looking back at what he saw of the Spurs' 111-98 loss in Game 2 that evened the best-of-5 Western Conference series.
Elliott missed the second half of Game 2 after suffering a broken nose, but he's expected to start tonight.
If the teams split the two Oakland games, they'll play the deciding game in San Antonio on Sunday.
The Warriors made the Spurs what they are, Midwest Division champs, by knocking off Utah on the final day of the regular season. With two more efforts such as Saturday's, the Warriors believe, they'll make San Antonio an early playoff dropout.
"You have to play perfect basketball in the playoffs, unless you're Portland or Chicago," said Tim Hardaway, referring to two other division champions.
Note the omission of San Antonio.
"On Saturday, we played a perfect game," Hardaway added.
Yet the Warriors' Big Three of Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Hardaway all shot under 50 percent from the floor and totaled 63 points, almost 20 under their combined average, in that game. The bench performances made the difference, especially Sarunas Marciulionis scoring 16 points and the defensive work of Tom Tolbert and Tyrone Hill on Spurs center David Robinson.
"You can't win with five guys," said Rod Higgins, another Golden State reserve. "Detroit has proven that. . . . In the playoffs, you have to stretch it to your bench to win games."
"The bench has done a great job for us in this series," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "I think they're getting us 36, 37 points a game, and we couldn't have written it any better."
Reggie Miller, the Indiana Pacers' leading scorer the past two seasons, disagrees with his coach about his play in the first two games of the best-of-5 NBA playoff series with Boston.
Coach Bob Hill is happy with Miller's performance; the 6-foot-7 guard isn't.
"I still haven't had a good game," said Miller, who averaged 19.5 points and shot .478 from the field and .813 from the free-throw line as the teams split the first two games in Boston.
All three figures are below Miller's marks for the season, when he led the league in free throw shooting at .918, averaged 22.6 points and shot 51 percent.
The series resumes tonight in Market Square Arena, where the Pacers have defeated Boston five consecutive times. Game 4 will be here Friday with the series returning to Boston on Sunday if a fifth game is necessary.
"I give Reggie an A," said Hill. "Reggie's got a scoring mentality. . . . To beat the Celtics and win in the playoffs, everyone has a job to do at both ends of the floor and in the middle, and particularly on the transition. . . . I'm pleased with Reggie's performance."