Willis out, Robinson questionable - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Willis out, Robinson questionable

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Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2003 10:49 pm | Updated: 1:29 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

SAN ANTONIO - The Spurs, already hit with the suspension of Kevin Willis for tonight, also may be without center David Robinson.

Robinson suffered a left knee injury in a collision with Stephon Marbury in Game 1 on Saturday.

The Admiral is undergoing tests and is listed as questionable for tonight's Game 2.

If he can't go, the Spurs could be in trouble, as Willis — who would help step in for Robinson — was suspended by the NBA for tonight's game for elbowing the Suns' Scott Williams in the throat in Game 1. Willis was ejected. Teammate Tim Duncan said, "We've done a great job of covering for (Robinson) when he's been out."

But without Willis, the Spurs would be down to key bench player Malik Rose filling in for Robinson, with little in reserve. Robinson hurt the Suns by cutting to the hoop when Duncan was double-teamed. He shot 8-for-8 and totaled 18 points and nine rebounds.

"When you get a great game like that out of David, and you lose, you feel like you've wasted it," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He's not going to do that every game."

Suns coach Frank Johnson, presuming Robinson will play, said, "We'll have to make adjustments."

BIG FISH

You score 24 points, grab nine rebounds and make the game-tying 3-point shot in regulation of a playoff game, you work up an appetite.

So when Amare Stoudemire ordered lobster Saturday night, he went for the biggest crustacean many of his Suns teammates had ever seen.

“Had to be six pounds,” said Scott Williams.

“Easy,” said Tom Gugliotta.

Stoudemire, who also had a side of green beans and mashed potatoes, couldn't finish the lobster. But he got his money's worth.

Gugliotta picked up the tab.

“Treating the rookie right,” Gugliotta said. “And he did make a pretty big shot.”

PICK A NUMBER

Much is made of the fact that the winner of Game 1 goes on to win 7-game series 79 percent of the time.

But this certainly doesn't apply to series matching up a No. 1 seed vs. a No. 8. The top-seeded team has gone 36-2 in these situations.

And keep in mind that until this season, these first-round series have been best-of-five affairs. The new best-of-seven format should favor the top-ranked team even more.

PRAISE FOR FRANK

Popovich had high praise for Johnson before the series started.

He called the Suns’ coach a "kick in the butt."

"He's in every play. He knows his players' skills. He loves his team.

"He played smart. He coaches smart. "I enjoy watching him."

PSYCHED OUT

No matter what they say, the Spurs have to be fighting off such ideas that the Suns are a bad matchup for them, or that the underdog is somehow destined to win this series.

After all, the Suns have now gone 4-1 against the NBA's top team, counting the regular season.

Though Johnson protests the Suns could easily be 1-4 against them, Suns guard Penny Hardaway said, "It's got to be in the back of their heads."

He recalls a playoff series featuring his Orlando team against Philadelphia. The 76ers had beaten them 3-1 in the season series, but the Magic "made excuses" for this, citing back-to-back situations that should be discounted.

Then the Sixers came out and beat them in the playoff opener.

“That put it in our heads that, ‘Maybe this team is better than we thought,’ ” Hardaway said. Indeed, the Sixers won the series.

Popovich strongly disagreed with the idea that a Suns upset was "in the stars," saying, "Everyone knows this is a tough matchup" for the Spurs. "But if we play the same defense (as in Game 1), I'll be thrilled."

Though he admitted Game 1 "was a tough loss," he's not thinking doom and gloom.

"People are dying all over the world. This is just a silly basketball game."

FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS

At one point during the game, the ever-manic Johnson hollered for his players to cover Spurs rookie Manu Ginobili. He even demonstrated personally, by reaching out and grabbing Ginobili briefly by the arm.

Said Johnson, repeating an old sports phrase, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying. That's what I've been told."

PRIME TIME

The big news, outside of the miraculous finish, was that rookie Stoudemire was able to play with the big boys on the world's biggest stage in his first playoff game.

Stoudemire came out energized.

"I wanted to show those guys the Phoenix Suns are no joke," Stoudemire said.

Then he came out of the game, a move Johnson suggested later was a goof on his part.

"I began to question myself when I took him out early," he said. "That's when the Spurs made their run."

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