Tim Duncan's outstanding rookie season ended with a scenario some of his Spurs teammates know well - a playoff loss to the rival Utah Jazz.
The Jazz knocked the Spurs out of the playoffs with a 4-1 victory in their best-of-7 Western Conference series, closing out a San Antonio season highlighted by Duncan's debut."We're disappointed that our season came to an end, but we've had a great year," Duncan said.
Duncan's play and David Robinson's return from injuries helped boost the Spurs to the best single-season turnaround in league history. San Antonio posted a 56-26 regular-season record after finishing 20-62 in 1996-97.
"I couldn't be more proud of our effort this season," coach Gregg Popovich said. "To go from where we were last year to where we are (now), that tells you what kind of a group of guys we have here."
San Antonio also set a league record by holding opponents to only 41 percent field-goal shooting.
Duncan and Robinson were dominant all season.
They were the only two teammates in the NBA to each average more than 20 points per game. Both were in the top five in rebounding.
Duncan averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks during the regular season and was overwhelmingly selected NBA Rookie of the Year after receiving the rookie honor every month of the season.
Robinson, after playing only six games last season because of back and foot injuries, made a successful return, averaging 21.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.63 blocks.
After a knee injury sidelined forward Sean Elliott in January, Popovich went with a "Triple Towers" approach the second half of the season by placing 7-footer Will Perdue in the starting lineup alongside Robinson and Duncan. His experiment worked.
San Antonio began the playoffs by beating Phoenix 3-1 in a best-of-5 series despite having to open on the Suns' home court.
For the third time in five years Utah defeated San Antonio in the playoffs. Utah eliminated the Spurs in the first round in 1994 and in the conference semifinals in 1996.
"It looks to me like the best team is going on, and we have some more work to do," Popovich said.
During the offseason, the look of the Spurs could change. Popovich repeatedly has said the Spurs need another perimeter shooter.