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Spurs Give Nets Welcome to the Big Time

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Times Staff Writer

Doesn’t look like we’re in Auburn Hills anymore, does it, Toto?

Destiny supposedly flew West in the persons of the New Jersey Nets, who came in with an impressive 10-game playoff winning streak, even if it was only against the Bucks, Celtics and Pistons, but it ended soon enough Wednesday night when the San Antonio Spurs clubbed them, 101-89, in the opener of the NBA Finals.

The Nets are supposed to be a high-scoring team, but this wasn’t Boston’s FleetCenter or Milwaukee’s Bradley Center, either. It was the SBC Center, home of the Spurs, who have two seven-footers to the Nets’ none -- since New Jersey’s Byron Scott doesn’t trust Dikembe Mutombo. As a result, the Spurs blocked 12 shots.

This left the Nets to see if they could win with jump shots, but they’re not very good shooters for a high-scoring team, a fact neatly symbolized by their leader, Jason Kidd, who went four for 17 from the floor.

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It was worse than that. Kidd made his first two shots, on the Nets’ first two possessions, a 10-footer and a 20-footer, then went two for 15.

Scott put the cold shooting on the Nets’ 10-day layoff, which, coupled with the Spurs’ six days off, produced the expected grisly first half, and a game that was no classic.

Kidd, however, noted the cold night was just him.

“That’s no excuse for me,” said Kidd of the layoff. “I didn’t shoot the ball extremely well, but that’s not exactly what I’m known for.”

That’s true enough. A late-season slump dropped Kidd to 41% from the field this season. Meanwhile, the Spurs’ 21-year-old Tony Parker, who had to listen to speculation the Spurs will try to sign Kidd this summer, shot 46%.

Wednesday, Parker got off to his usual slow start, then, as he has often done this postseason, got hot in the third quarter, leading the Spurs’ charge.

The final score of their ballyhooed matchup was Parker 16, Kidd 10, so unless something changes soon, that probably will do it for the Spurs’ pursuit of Kidd.

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Scott started the night, as he started last spring’s series against the Lakers, determined to single-cover Tim Duncan, as he did with Shaquille O’Neal. The Nets’ best defender, Kenyon Martin, would take Duncan, with a little help from the other Nets, dropping back to help when they could.

“We’re going to do what we normally do,” Scott said. “That’s what got us to this point. I’m not going to change if Tim scores 30, 40, doesn’t really matter.... I’m not going to throw the kitchen sink in. I’m giving my guys a lot of confidence they can do a pretty good job.”

Duncan started slowly, while establishing David Robinson, but he went into overdrive in the second half, finishing with 32 points, 20 rebounds, six assists and seven blocked shots.

Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Robinson, soon to retire, scored 14 points with six rebounds and four blocked shots in 27 minutes.

“We’ve still got to be careful with David,” Coach Gregg Popovich said. “If we go too many minutes, we’re going to pass that point because his body is not going to handle that much.”

Of course, six days off was just right for someone, or as Robinson said he told teammates, “I’ve never had a bad day off.”

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Duncan and Robinson were once a feared tandem and even this late in Robinson’s career they have their moments.

After the Spurs eliminated the Lakers, Duncan said he’d like to bring Robinson back for one more year but, as Duncan noted Wednesday, “That’s a Valerie Robinson decision.”

Valerie is Mr. Robinson’s Mrs., and David confirmed Wednesday this will be it.

“To win the championship would be phenomenal,” Robinson said. “It’s what I’ve been playing for. It’s the only thing I want. All of the other stuff doesn’t matter. All of the individual stuff, that doesn’t matter now to me.”

Judging from the postgame news conference, the story in New York will be why Scott won’t play Mutombo extensively. Scott would prefer playing the kitchen sink, but it’s still not time to panic ... quite.

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