By Ron Griffitts
In June 2003, the New Jersey Nets (49-33) coached by Byron Scott with general manager Rod Thorn returned to the finals to face the San Antonio Spurs (60-22) coached by Gregg Popovich with R. C. Buford as general manager.
The Nets were led by Jason Kidd (16.7 ppg, 8.9 apg, 6.3 rpg), Richard Jefferson (15.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Kenyon Marin (16.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg), Kerry Kittles (13.0 ppg)) and Lucious Harris (10.3 ppg).
The Spurs were led by 1999 finals MVP Tim Duncan (23.3 ppg, 12.9 rpg), Tony Parker (15.5 ppg, 5.3 apg), Stephen Jackson (11.8 ppg), Malik Rose (10.4, 6.4 rpg) and 37 year David Robinson (7.9 rpg). They also had as a reserve another 37 year-old, Steve Kerr, who won three NBA titles with the Bulls and one with the Spurs. He would go on to later win three with the Golden State Warriors as a coach.
Game one was in the SBC Center in San Antonio and although the Nets got out to a 21-18 lead after the first quarter, they could not overcome a 32-17 San Antonio third quarter advantage and lost game one 101-89. The Spurs had a .494 to .371 advantage in field goal percentage and were led by Tim Duncan with 32 points and 20 rebounds. The Nets were led by Kenyon Martin with 21 points and 12 rebounds and Jason Kidd with 10 assists.
In game two the Nets rallied to win their first ever finals game 87-85 as they led 66-56 after three quarters and held off San Antonio in the fourth quarter for the win to even the series at one game. Jason Kidd had 30 points for New Jersey while Tim Duncan had 19 points and 12 boards. Tony Parker contributed 21 points for the Spurs.
For game three the teams moved to the Continental Airlines Arena in San Antonio and once again the Nets got out to a good start leading 21-16 after the first quarter and led after three quarters. But a fourth quarter surge by the Spurs propelled them to an 84-79 win to go up two games to one. The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan who had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Tony Parker with 26 points, while the Nets were led by Jason Kidd with 11 assists, Kenyon Martin with 23 points and 11 rebounds and Kerry Kittles with 21 points.
In game four the Nets evened the series 2-2 with a one point 77-76 victory led by Richard Jefferson with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Kenyon Martin with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Game five was still in San Antonio and the Spurs rallied to outscore the Nets in each quarter of the game for 93-83 win, needing only one more victory to win the series. They were led by Tim Duncan with 29 points and 17 rebounds while Jason Kidd led the Nets with 29 points.
Back in New Jersey, the Nets led after three quarters 63-57 but a fourth quarter 31-14 fourth quarter surge propelled the Spurs to win the game 88-77 and win the series for their second title in five years. They were led by Tim Duncan with 21 pints and 20 rebounds who collected his second finals MVP award and David Robinson playing in his last NBA game with 17 rebounds. The Nets were led by Jason Kidd with 21 points and Kenyon Martin with 10 rebounds but he made 3 of 23 field goal attempts.
The Spurs were back in the finals in 2005 while New Jersey has not been back since 2003. This championship was the second of the five NBA titles Gregg Popovich coached the San Antonio Spurs to. Jason Kidd went on to complete an eighteen year NBA career as a player, finishing second all-time in assists with 12,091 and now is the coach of the Dallas Mavericks.
Statistics for this article were from basketball-reference.com
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.