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New York knows there's no place like 'Dome

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Shooting in a dome is different from shooting in an arena, which is why the New York Knicks are wasting no time getting to the Alamodome.

"Certainly, shooting in a dome is different. The shooting background in domes is different, and that gives them, to me, a huge homecourt advantage," coach Jeff Van Gundy said Sunday.New York planned to practice at its suburban facility one more time today before boarding a charter flight to San Antonio that should arrive in the late afternoon.

Game 1 of the finals is Wednesday night.

The Spurs and Knicks did not play each other during the regular season because of the lockout-shortened schedule, so there will be a greater degree of unfamiliarity in this series than there ever has been in an NBA Finals.

"Familiarity in the Miami series and the Indiana series, coaching staff-wise, was easy," Van Gundy said. "This is just different. You don't really know a team until you compete against them regularly, and particularly until you compete against them in the playoffs.

"Both teams think they know, but they're not really going to know until a couple games into the series."

By then, the Knicks should also know how much of a contribution Larry Johnson will be able to make.

The co-captain's sprained right knee was causing him a lot of pain Sunday, although he said he'll play in the series -- even if it's not in Game 1.

"What I hate more than sitting out is being on the floor and not being 100 percent. Because you know you can make this move or guard this guy better, but there's something hampering you," Johnson said. "Another thing is I don't want to be out there with a big, bulky brace on and not be able to do the things I want to do."

If Johnson can't play in Game 1, the Knicks would be expected to use a starting lineup of Chris Dudley at center, Kurt Thomas and Latrell Sprewell at forward and Allan Houston and Charlie Ward in the backcourt.

That would leave Marcus Camby and 41-year-old Herb Williams as the only big men coming off the bench since the Knicks are also missing 7-foot center Patrick Ewing, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

That size predicament had Van Gundy and his staff wondering whether to double-team Duncan and Robinson when they have the ball, as most teams do, or take their chances with single coverage on the Twin Towers and tight defense on the other three players.

"That's what's going to be great to watch," Van Gundy said. "It's going to be a great, great decision for us."

The Spurs, meanwhile, are hoping rest doesn't lead to rust after their long layoff. They had a day off from practice Sunday as the players further enjoyed the downtime they earned by disposing of the Portland Trail Blazers in a four-game sweep.

San Antonio, which also swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, hasn't lost since the second game of the first round against Minnesota.

"Teams that are inconsistent, or not as good, you can exploit because they have weaknesses," Van Gundy said of the Spurs. "But this team really has no weaknesses, which is why they've won 10 playoff games in a row, which is unheard of."

The archive on "How To Beat The Spurs" is not a voluminous one, which is what Van Gundy learned when he started researching it.

"I asked our video coordinator: 'Pull up all their losses. I want to see the teams that beat them in the last three months.' And he gives me this little stack of tapes," Van Gundy said. "Baaaad sign.

"They lost to Phoenix, Dallas, Sacramento in overtime and Minnesota. That's it since April 1," Van Gundy said. "That's the stack. Four of 'em."