Monday , May , 14 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Steve Nash & Phoenix Suns Survive A Body-Check, Fight Back To Win Game Four Against San Antonio Spurs

Physical play dominated game four as the Phoenix Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-98 … Everybody was talking about Big-shot Bob, also known as Robert Horry, delivering an NHL-style body-check to Steve Nash … But could that hit serve as a turning point for Phoenix? … What will be the fallout for the Spurs? … Click here for your recap, reaction, and analysis….

What Happened: The used a 32-18 fourth quarter rally to beat the 104-98 on Monday night at the AT&T Center. This series is now tied 2-2.

But tomorrow nobody will be talking about Phoenix’s dramatic come-from-behind victory.

With eighteen seconds left, the Suns were up by three points and was in possession of the ball. San Antonio forward , while attempting to stop the clock, body-checked Nash off the court and into the lower-padding of the scorers table.

A brief skirmish erupted. Horry was ejected. And , Phoenix’s blue-collar guard, was hit with a technical foul.

This was just the latest incident in a very intense and aggressive series. On Thursday, following game two, Phoenix’s called and the entire San Antonio team “dirty.” Stoudemire believed Bowen tried to injure him with an intentional kick to his leg.

During Saturday’s game, Bowen kneed Nash in the groin. Bowen was called for the foul. However, on Sunday evening, the NBA launched an investigation into the incident and increased the foul call to a “Flagrant Foul 1.”

San Antonio controlled game four until the fourth quarter. Then Nash and Stoudemire took over.

Nash hit several big shots down the stretch. He shook off some early turnovers to finish with 24 points and 15 assists, while Stoudemire had 26 points- in just 31 minutes- to go with nine rebounds.

Most importantly, Phoenix won this game playing San Antonio’s half-court tempo.

led the Spurs with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocked shots. But San Antonio‘s other stars, and , struggled. Parker scored 21 points, but hit just 9-of-19 shots, and had five turnovers to go with his seven assists. Ginobili finished witha disappointing 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

Game five is scheduled for Wednesday in Phoenix.

Humorous reaction of Phoenix guard Steve Nash
on challenging Horry after getting body-checked:
“I’ve been working on the guns (biceps). Maybe I would have scored a few points with a combo the body.” (TNT interview conducted by reporter Craig Sager)

Reaction of Phoenix guard Steve Nash on the comeback win:
"Simply, we stuck with it. We could’ve folded a lot of times. They were playing great and made a lot of shots."  (ESPN)

Reaction of Phoenix coach Mike D’ Antoni on his team’s intense play in the fourth quarter:
"We needed to open the floor off Steve some and get that balance. Tonight we were able to go smaller and get away with it."We just have to have that desperation and play with the fury we did in the last quarter."  (ESPN)

My Take: I grew up watching the Piston and Bulls in the late-eighties and early-nineties. Both of these teams had to exercise their own playoff demons against an opponent to become champs.

The Pistons had to get past the Celtics. Remember, “Bird stole the ball” in the 1987 Eastern Conference semifinals. And, after beating Boston the next year, Detroit lost the NBA finals to Los Angeles in a classic seven game series. The Pistons then beat the Lakers the following season to win the first of their back-to-back NBA Titles.

Before the Bulls became a dynasty, they were haunted by the Pistons. Say ‘Bad Boys’ to a young Scottie Pippen and the versatile forward would suddenly come down with a mysterious migraine headache.

For a few years, Chicago just couldn’t get past Detroit. Ah, yes, the Pistons used their defense known as The Jordan Rules to stop His Airness. Eventually, Chicago beat Detroit. And the rest, including the Bulls’ six NBA Titles, is history.

The Lesson: to become champ, you had to knockout a champ.

I bring this up because several analysts feel game four could be Phoenix’s breakthrough game. The Suns showed character and resilience to beat the Spurs at The Alamo.

They rose to the challenge and they exercised their own playoff demons. And the late-game skirmish should bring an already-close Phoenix team even closer together.

The Suns didn’t play particularly well, either. Nash struggled with turnovers. Stoudemire was plagued by foul trouble. And, for the second straight game, couldn’t find his shot.

I think it’s a bit premature to make a definite prediction. As a Mohammed Ali fan, I learned to never count out a former champ like the Spurs. There are three games left. But if Phoenix advances, game four will be seen as the turning point.

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