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Emotional Elie energizes Alamodome crowd

SAN ANTONIO -- Mario Elie is playing beside mild-mannered big men in an easygoing Texas city. He hasn't lost his New York fervor.

Elie put his intensity to use Friday night and the San Antonio Spurs took advantage of his infectious spirit for an 80-67 victory over the Knicks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.San Antonio went up 2-0 in the best-of-7 series, and Elie took another step toward winning his third NBA championship.

"I'm the emotional leader on this team. Nobody else really gets into the game like I do. I love it. I've been here before," said Elie, who won titles with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995.

Elie used a dramatic dunk and his customary theatrics to get the Alamodome crowd of 39,554 charged late in the first quarter.

After dunking, Elie looked around at the crowd and waved his arms upward to urge on the cheers. And the roar inside the cavernous domed stadium never seemed to die.

"I feed off the crowd," Elie said. "I felt early in the game the game was sort of boring and dull, so I got my little dunk, tried to get the crowd involved."

Elie, who averaged 9.7 points in the regular season, finished with 15 Friday night on 4-for-10 shooting. His final four points came on free throws with less than a minute to play and ensured the Spurs stayed ahead by at least 10 points.

On his last trip to the foul line, Elie was laughing. And his sometimes stoic teammates, including 7-foot stars David Robinson and Tim Duncan, followed his lead and celebrated as they were replaced by reserves for the game's final seconds.

"Sweep, sweep, sweep," the Alamodome crowd shouted.

While Elie's job may be to add passion to the squad, Robinson pointed out his role is a different one.

"It's been my job mainly to be the steadying force. I let those guys, Mario and Avery (Johnson), stir up the emotion," Robinson said.

The series now moves to Madison Square Garden, where Elie will feel almost at home. He grew up five minutes from the arena in Manhattan and said he's looking forward to his mother's home cooking.

"I'm excited. I get to go home, see my mom, eat some rice and beans," Elie said. "But I've got a job to do out there. I can't get distracted."