Originally created 05/27/01

Popovich questions Spurs' belief in themselves

LOS ANGELES -- If the situation isn't bleak enough, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich wonders whether his players have lost their belief that they can beat the Los Angeles Lakers.

Whether the Spurs believe it or not, history says it's too late.

"If you get beat that bad, assuming you have no talent problems, assuming you know the character of your team, you know it's not the character, so you have to wonder if it's their belief," Popovich said after the Lakers demolished the Spurs 111-72 Friday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

"If deep down in their guts, it's their belief that has waned, and it (ticks) me off," Popovich said. "I don't know if I'm astonished or disappointed. ... I think I'm both."

When asked about Sunday's Game 4 at Staples Center, Popovich said: "You go play. There's no elixir. I don't know any drills we can do. You just come out and play hard."

The Spurs haven't been eliminated, but that figures to be only a matter of time, considering no team has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series.

"The chances are, it's probably over," admitted Antonio Daniels, who had 17 points in a losing cause. "But we can't think like that. We're down 3-0, we've got a game Sunday.

"Of course, they're playing well. The thing is, we've been playing well, also. To lose by 39 points, that's ridiculous."

The Spurs figured to receive a boost with the return of Derek Anderson, their second-leading scorer during the season.

Anderson played for the first time since separating his right shoulder May 5 on a flagrant foul by Dallas' Juwan Howard, but was ineffective throughout on offense, missing all eight shots he attempted and scoring only two points in 29 minutes.

Starting at small forward in place of Danny Ferry, Anderson had his first shot blocked by Rick Fox and never got untracked after that.

"Shots just didn't go down," Anderson said. "Those are shots I usually hit. I didn't feel (rusty), my wind is there, everything felt good. We didn't hit a shot. Once again, they played great defense."

The Spurs, who led the NBA in 3-point shooting during the season, were a miserable 1-for-12 behind the arc, giving them a three-game total of 10-for-43 in this series.

Overall, they made only 26-of-81 shots (32.1 percent) in Game 3 while the Lakers were 44-of-92 (47.8 percent) and 7-of-18 from 3-point range.

"We didn't shoot the ball well, struggled from the 3-point line again, and that's disappointing," said Terry Porter, who made 1-of-4 shots from beyond the arc, making him 2-for-14 in the series. "It's a one-game elimination. We've put ourselves in this predicament."

While David Robinson rebounded from sub-par performances in the first two games with 24 points -- 17 in the first half when the game was competitive -- Tim Duncan had a horrendous night, making 3-of-14 shots and 3-of-8 free throws for nine points.

He scored 40 in Game 2.

"It's the biggest game, probably, of my career so far, and to go out and play like that and give that kind of effort, it's just bad," a somber Duncan said. "We haven't done much to slow their offense down.

"We never had an answer for them. When it goes bad, it all goes bad. They've defended us well the whole series, and we haven't made shots. It was a poor effort, we let them run wild."

Even with Duncan and Robinson, their 7-foot Twin Towers, the Spurs were outrebounded 63-35, and the Lakers had 22 offensive rebounds.

"You give a team 22 offensive rebounds, that's just too many possessions," Porter said. "Little things, seems like it just kind of exploded on us.

"Every time it looked like we had a chance to get close, they'd get an offensive rebound and a dunk. That was disheartening."


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