THERE WAS SOMETHING almost sad in hearing the Spurs' David Robinson in the aftermath of Sunday night's crushing defeat in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Ever the gentleman regardless of the circumstances, Robinson sat and patiently handled all queries following the Spurs' 82-73 loss in the Alamodome.The defeat brings them to the brink of elimination in this best-of-seven series as Utah, which holds a 3-1 edge, hosts Game 5 in the Delta Center on Tuesday night.

The Spurs have never won a playoff game in the Delta Center.

But true to his optimistic ways, Robinson said he liked his team's chances in Game 5.

That would be like the guy in the old movies, tied to the tracks with the train approaching, saying he likes the position he's in.

Yet, the sentiment from Robinson was sincere. He wasn't posturing for the media. He believes it.

Just as he believed in the spring of 1995, after Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon had clubbed him in the Western Conference finals, that he "played him pretty well."

After nine seasons, it should be abundantly clear that Robinson is never going to be the player that puts the Spurs on his shoulders and carries them through the play-offs.

Not that his shoulders aren't broad enough.

It's just that there is something missing.

Kevin O'Keeffe

San Antonio Express News

IF THERE'S ONE thing everyone in the NBA should know about Karl Malone, it's he delvers when it counts.

That's why they call him "The Mailman."

Malone scored 34 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead the Utah Jazz to an 82-73 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals before 28,587 at the Alamodome on Sunday night.

And now Utah is going home with a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Tuesday at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

Michael Murphy

Houston Chronicle