Coach Stan Albeck, whose Spurs trail the Los Angeles Lakers, 2-0, in the National Basketball Association's best-of-seven Western Conference final, is blunt about what it will take to win Game 3 Friday night at HemisFair Arena.
" 'Ice' has to do it for us, and we're going to him early and a lot," Albeck said, referring to George Gervin, the NBA's leading regular-season scorer with a 32.3 points a game average. Gervin, a 50 percent shooter during the season, is only 17 for 45, 38 percent, in the first two games of this series. And averaging 25 points.
Gervin said his shooting slump will end just as quickly as it began.
"Ain't worried about it," he said. "Some days it just isn't there. It will be Friday. We need it now."
San Antonio's offense is not complicated: The Spurs like an open court. But going against the Lakers, the best fast-breaking team in the league, they are overmatched. That makes Gervin even more important, because the Spurs' half-court game consists largely of setting picks and double picks until Gervin can break free.
The Lakers have played defense against Gervin the way the Washington Bullets did Larry Bird in their series with the Boston Celtics: They've tried to keep the ball from him. That task has fallen largely to Jamaal Wilkes.
"You play Gervin like you play all great scorers," said Wilkes. "You try to deny him the ball. So much of their offense is him that if you stop him it really bottles up their offense."
In the first two games, the Lakers double-teamed Gervin only when he dribbled the ball, to make him shoot from farther out than he is accustomed to.
With Gervin under wraps, Mike Mitchell and Dave Corzine, a one-time Bullet, have become the Spurs' offense. Mitchell has scored 59 points in the two games and Corzine, a reserve who has, nevertheless, played twice as much as starting center George Johnson, has averaged 16.5 points and 12 rebounds.
Johnson, the league's top shot blocker this season, averaging 3.1, is a poor shooter. He has taken only two shots, blocked two and had five rebounds in the two games. Albeck has turned to Corzine, who will become a free agent when the playoffs end, and the 6-foot-11, four-year pro has excelled. His value in the marketplace has risen accordingly.
The Spurs led the NBA in rebounding this season, but have been outmatched, 103-86, so far by the Lakers. And once the Lakers have the ball, they are off and running. Of their 100 field goals in this series, 49 have been on either dunks or layups.
"That's got to change," said Albeck. "The biggest problem with our rebounding has been our shot selection. It hasn't been very good and that's gotten us out of position and allowed them to run."
"The only way to stop the Lakers' fast break is to put the ball in the hole," said Gervin.
The star for the Lakers has been Magic Johson, who is averaging 16 points, 13.5 rebounds, 11.5 assists and four steals in the series.
"This is my kind of series," he said. "San Antonio likes to play the same type game we do and that makes it fun. We know they aren't done yet, though. This is still going to be a tough series. They beat us three out of five times during the season and beat us twice in the same building we have to play the next two games in."
That building, HemisFair Arena, and its wild fans "are worth 10 points to the Spurs," Albeck said.
Game 4 will be played here Saturday night at 8:30 (EDT) instead of Sunday afternoon, as first scheduled, because of a convention at the arena. The teams rejected a request by CBS to play the game Saturday afternoon.
If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played Tuesday night at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.