By Ron Griffitts
In June 1999 after the strike shortened 1998-99 regular season, the San Antonio Spurs (37-13) coached by Gregg Popovich defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1), Los Angeles Lakers (4-0), and the Portland Trail Blazers (4-0) to face the New York Knicks (27-23) coached by Jeff Van Gundy who dispatched the Miami Heat (3-2), Atlanta Hawks (4-0), and the Indiana Pacers (4-2) to get to the NBA finals.
The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan (21.7 ppg, 11.4 rpg), Avery Johnson (7.4 apg), David Robinson (15.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Sean Elliott (11.2 ppg) while the Knicks were paced by Allan Houston (16.3 ppg), Patrick Ewing (17.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg), Larry Johnson (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg), and Latrell Spreewell (16.4 ppg). Ewing, however, was injured in the playoffs and did not play in the finals against the Spurs.
Game one was in the Alamodome in San Antonio and in a close game the Spurs outlasted the Knicks 89-77 in a series in which no team scored 100 points or more in a game.
Tim Duncan with 33 points and 16 rebounds led the Spurs and Jaren Jackson contributed 17 points off the bench while Latrell Spreewell and Allan Houston both contributed 19 points each for New York.
Game two still in San Antonio was similar as the Knicks could not get their offense going against the Spurs and San Antonio goes up two games to none with an 80-67 victory.
Tim Duncan continued his dominance with 25 points and 15 boards while David Robinson contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds. Latrell Spreewell again led the Knicks with 26 points and Marcus Camby came off the bench for 11 rebounds.
For game three, the teams switched to historic Madison Square Garden in New York City and in another low scoring game the Knicks came out on top after taking a 32-21 first quarter lead and holding on for an 89-81 victory. Allan Houston led the Knicks with 34 points while Latrell Spreewell chipped in 24. David Robinson led the Spurs with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Tim Duncan added 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs lead the series two games to one.
In game four, the Spurs bounced back by outrebounding the Knicks 49-34 and came away with a 96-89 win as Tim Duncan scored 28 points and pulled down 18 rebounds and David Robinson hauled in 17 rebounds. Allan Houston again led
New York with 26 points, Latrell Sprewell added 20 and Marcus Camby had 20 as well as 13 rebounds.
Game five was similar to the previous four games but was even closer as just one point separated the two teams after three quarters of play as the Spurs had a one point lead, which they held on to for a 78-77 win in the game and the series.
Tim Duncan continued his outstanding play with 31 points and David Robinson had 12 rebounds. Latrell Spreewell had his best game of the series with 35 points and 10 rebounds but the Knicks could not make up for the absence of Patrick Ewing and again were outrebounded 40-35.
The Knicks could not match up against the two seven footers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
Tim Duncan got the finals MVP and the Spurs returned to the finals in 2003 against the New Jersey Nets while the New York Knicks have not been back to a finals since 1999.
Statistics for this article were from basketball-reference.com.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.