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Seattle 91, San Antonio 79
Posted: Thursday May 02, 2002 03:51 AM
San Antonio Spurs
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Seattle SuperSonics
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SEATTLE (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs are running out of players and may be running out of games.

Minus big men Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the Spurs lost three more players and were no match for the Seattle SuperSonics, who rode big games from Gary Payton and Vladimir Radmanovic to a 91-79 victory.

The seventh-seeded SuperSonics evened the Western Conference first-round series at two games each and forced Game Five. The second-seeded Spurs host that game Friday with no guarantee they will have all their players.

"We just gotta be patient and try to execute our offense," Payton said. "They're going to be at home, they're going to be charged up. We can't get into the emotions where they're going to get into it and we try to outgun them or something like that. We just got to keep our game plan, be smart and try to execute."

The pivotal player is Duncan, the superstar power forward who was named to the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday but was in the Virgin Islands to be with family following the death of his father.

"The last time I spoke to him before he left, the plan was to try to get back for Friday's game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Robinson, another 7-footer, has played just seven minutes in the series, wrenching his back in Game One. He is not expected to play Friday.

Forward Danny Ferry played just two minutes before being sidelined with a sprained wrist. Forward Mark Bryant was ejected for fighting in the third quarter and guard Charles Smith suffered a partially separated right shoulder in a horrific fall in the final period, leaving the Spurs with just seven players.

Payton collected his second career playoff triple-double with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Radmanovic, a rookie from Yugoslavia, scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half, when the Sonics buried the Spurs by racing to a 57-31 lead.

"I played in Europe as a pro and I got some experience," Radmanovic said. "I mean, some important games in Europe, fans will expect more from you because if you don't give your best, they'll be men sometimes trying to beat you (up) and things like that. Here, there's some pressure but not much. That pressure I had in Europe helps me a lot here."

The best shooting team in the NBA, Seattle shot 61 percent (22-of-36) from the field in the first half while holding San Antonio to 25 percent (10-of-40).

Desmond Mason scored 17 points for the Sonics, who have not won a playoff series since 1998.

Malik Rose had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Spurs, who fell to 1-4 all-time in the playoffs without Duncan. He missed a 2000 first-round series against Phoenix with a knee injury and San Antonio lost in four games.

"I made my mind up early that I was going to try and be a force," Rose said. "But the first half just didn't work out that way. I was hesitant on a few shots and then we were all out of whack and we were just going 1-on-1 and we weren't really a team in the first half."

Less than two minutes into the game, Spurs swingman Bruce Bowen elbowed Sonics guard Brent Barry in the chest. A scuffle ensued, with Seattle forward Vin Baker grabbing Bowen around the neck. All three players received technical fouls.

"This is playoff basketball," Payton said. "We responded to their physical play."

Radmanovic scored eight points in the first quarter as Seattle sped to a 24-13 lead. The Sonics opened the second period with a 14-0 burst and Radmanovic scored 11 more points in the quarter.

"Big first half for him," Payton said. "It's good to see him get out of the slump he was in. He took his time and, you know, we kicked the ball to him and he let it fly." "We settled for a lot of jump shots in the first half," Bowen said. "There was a lot of standing around in our offense."

The Spurs tried to fight back in the second half in more ways than one. With nine minutes left in the third quarter, Bryant tussled with Mason and Baker intervened again. Bryant had to be restrained by teammates before being tossed and could be suspended for Game Five.

"Those guys got tangled up," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "I think Bryant, from what I've heard, trick to kick Mase."

"I think they were really trying to turn the tide when we got up by such a big score and were trying, I think, to set the tone for Game Five," Baker said. "It really didn't get us rattled. Coach talked to us about keeping our composure and keeping our cool, 'cause we have to win down there."

San Antonio trailed 76-59 entering the final period. Early in the quarter, Smith soared for an offensive rebound and was upended, landing on his shoulder before hitting his head on the floor.

Baker scored 10 points for the Sonics, who cooled off to 50 percent (34-of-68), making 8-of-14 3-pointers. Radmanovic was 5-of-7 from the arc.

Tony Parker scored 14 points and Steve Smith added 11 for the Spurs, who shot less than 33 percent (27-of-82).