Monday , May , 23 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Spurs know how to win in playoffs

(Sports Network) – San Antonio has jumped out to a 1-0 lead against No. 1
Phoenix in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals. Tony Parker scored 28
points and Tim Duncan netted 28 and grabbed 15 rebounds, as the Spurs knocked
off ths Suns, 121-114, in the series opener at America West Arena.

Manu Ginobili also had a solid game for the second-seeded Spurs, as he
finished with 20 points and a team-high five assists in Game 1’s victory.
Duncan, who had injured his left ankle in Game 6’s win over Seattle in the
semis, played 40 minutes and was 10-of-21 from the floor, while Parker was
an impressive 13-for-22 from the field.

After winning Game 1 of a playoff series, San Antonio has won 15 of its last
16 sets in the postseason.

“Obviously, any win in the playoffs is a great feeling and we feel good about
the win against a very good basketball team, said San Antonio head coach Gregg
Popovich after Game 1s’ victory. “I think that Tony (Parker), Manu (Ginobili)
and Timmy (Duncan) were all very good tonight and that allowed us to stay in
the ballgame when things got a little dicey and they scored a gazillion points
in the third quarter. But those guys kept everybody together and played very
good basketball games. I thought all the role guys fit in pretty well so we’re
just thrilled with the victory.

Veteran Brent Barry came off the bench and gave the Spurs a huge lift
offensively in the opener. He scored 21 points on 8-of-12 from the field,
including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. The 33-year-old Barry played 34 minutes
and was at the top of his game.

“Brent making shots for us is huge because that’s what has got to happen to
make Timmy a better player,” said Popovich. “If they can go after Timmy the
way they did and we’re not going to make any shots we’re going to have a
problem and Brent Barry obviously has been a great shooter his whole career.
He has been up and down for us this year but in the playoffs, he’s been much
better and played very confidently tonight. We gave him a little bit more time
out on the court, usually players respond to that. He responded quite well.

The Suns were led by Amare Stoudemire in Game 1, as the All-Star center scored
a game-high 41 points and pulled down nine boards in the loss. Reigning MVP
Steve Nash finished with 29 points and a game-best 13 assists, while Jim
Jackson scored 20 in 41 minutes of court time.

Phoenix was hurt by the performance of Shawn Marion, who was an All-Star along
with Nash and Stoudemire on this year’s Western Conference squad. He played 36
minutes and grabbed nine rebounds, but was just 1-of-6 from the field for
three points.

“Probably wasn’t my night to get the opportunity I wanted but at the same time
I have got to get involved,” said Marion after Game 1s loss.

The last time the Suns lost the first game of a playoff series and cameback to
win the set was in 1993. Phoenix actually dropped the first two games in its
first-round matchup against the Lakers, but won the next three to win the
best-of-five series, 3-2.

Phoenix was an impressive 31-10 at home and on the road during the regular
season. The Suns know that even though they lost home-court advantage for now,
they are capable of winning on the road and regaining the edge.

“Certainly not the end of the world,” said Nash about losing Game 1 at America
West Arena. “I think that we’re more than capable of winning on the road, so
it’s not the end of the world for us to lose at home. Obviously it’s not the
end of the world for us. ”

The playoff-tested Spurs are a tough matchup for Phoenix. They can win a half-
court contest, or a fast-paced game as they proved in the opener. The Spurs
can adjust to any style of play, and that makes it very difficult to matchup
against them.

“This is a good team,” said Phoenix head coach Mike D’Antoni after Game 1s
loss. “They played great. Duncan took over at the end. Brent Barry hit some
great shots. You get two tries to do that, it makes it tough They played their
game and 121 points too many. We’re going to have to find a way to stop them.

San Antonio obviously has a potent trio in Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.
But the Spurs also have solid veterans like Barry, defensive stopper Bruce
Bowen, Robert Horry, who scored 12 points in Game 1 versus Phoenix and has
played 187 playoff games during his career, and center Nazr Mohammed. This
is a team that is built to win in the postseason.