- Jerry Bembry
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SAN ANTONIO -- On a night where he needed to be large, he came up small.
In a game where he needed to be in motion like a Benz, he sputtered like a Pinto.
In Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Kenyon Martin needed to sparkle like a Tiffany's diamond, but in missing 20 of his 23 shots, he was as dull as the jewelry on sale at ... K-Mart.
And somewhere on Sunday night, Keith Van Horn had to be smiling.
You call a guy out like Martin did with Van Horn after last year's Finals loss to the Lakers, you better man-up and produce when your team's season is on the line.
Those six points in Sunday night's 88-77 loss? At least, in one sense, Martin made good on his promise to be better than his four-point outing in Game 5.
Van Horn came up small during the Finals last year, and Martin came up empty in the last two games of the Finals this year. But here's the difference: A little bit more aggression from Van Horn last year and maybe the Nets steal a game from the Lakers in a series they were destined to lose.
If they get a halfway effort from Martin over the last two games of this year's Finals, the Nets likely reach a Game 7 with mounting pressure on the heavily favored Spurs. But Martin, in 39 minutes, fired brick after brick after brick after ...
"I was open," Martin said of his futile effort to find the bottom of the basket. "Shots I make every day -- in practice, in games, I just couldn't knock them down."
His inability to knock down shots was crushing to the Nets. When Martin went to the bench with 1:49 left in the third quarter -- he had missed 14 of 17 shots to that point -- the Nets had a six-point lead. When he checked back in with 8:39 remaining, the Nets had a 72-63 lead. But the Spurs then ran off the next 19 points during a stretch where the Nets missed seven straight shots -- three of those misses by Martin.
The game's momentum probably shifted before Martin checked back in when, with 9:59 left, Emanuel Ginobili tipped the ball away from Richard Jefferson. As Jefferson made a non-chalant effort to retrieve the ball, Ginobili scooped it up and drove the length of the court for a dunk that at the time had the Spurs within 69-63.
"We had control of the game pretty much in hand," Kidd said. "From that point on, we got unraveled."
Kidd, in possibly his last game as a Net, was great. In 42 minutes, he had 21 points and seven assists, and he would have had more assists had the Nets converted on a few more of his perfect setups.
Jefferson -- outside of the lapse when he got picked by Ginobili -- maintained his aggressiveness for the third straight game. While he missed nine of his 15 shots, RJ finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Kerry Kittles, who struggled offensively most of the series, responded with just his second double-digit game, scoring 16 points and getting three steals.
And Martin? Frustrated by Tim Duncan over the last two games, he couldn't score. On defense, against Duncan -- who almost recorded a quadruple-double with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks -- he was helpless Sunday night.
Overall, Martin failed to grab an offensive rebound in the series-ending defeat and was unable to become a factor in a game the Nets desperately needed him to show up.
When it was over Martin, with a white towel draped over his head, said "I felt like I let my team down."
While watching him melt down, it kind of made you long for Keith Van Horn.
Jerry Bembry is general editor (NBA) for ESPN The Magazine. You can reach him via e-mail at Jerry.Bembry@ESPN3.com.
15hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann