Wednesday , May , 09 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Nash, Suns even series with Spurs

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Steve Nash, playing with a bandage on his nose
after a horrific collision on Sunday, scored 20 points and had 16 assists,
pacing the Suns to a 101-81 win over San Antonio, evening their Western
Conference semifinal series after two games.

Nash suffered a gash to his nose, which required six stitches after colliding
with Spurs guard Tony Parker in the fourth quarter on Sunday, a 111-106 Suns
loss. Nash missed nearly the entire final minute of that game, but came back
in MVP form on Tuesday as Phoenix pulled away in the final quarter.

“I thought our energy was much better,” Nash said. “I thought we did a better
job with the game plan. We did a good job defending, in general.”

Amare Stoudemire had 21 of his 27 points in the second half and totaled nine
rebounds for the Suns, who used a different starting lineup than the opener,
choosing to use Kurt Thomas at forward instead of James Jones. Thomas had 12
points on 6-of-7 shooting, but more importantly his defense on Tim Duncan
helped Stoudemire use more of his energy on offense.

“When you can throw a guy like Kurt down there, it makes it a little more
difficult on him (Duncan) so you don’t have to double team every time,” Nash
said. “It’s amazing to be able to have that sort of weapon where a guy can
hold his own down there a little bit.”

Duncan scored 29 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who had a
horrendous shooting night from everyone other than their star forward.
Duncan went 12-of-20 from the field, but the rest of the team was 21-of-57.
Parker, who had 32 points in Game 1, was limited to 13 on 5-of-14 shooting in
the second game. Manu Ginobili was held in check for a second straight
contest, scoring six.

“I thought they maintained an aggressiveness, a physicality, a pursuit of the
basketball for 48 minutes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the Suns. “We
gave into that. We didn’t maintain it and the result is as you see it.”

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday in San Antonio.

Bruce Bowen’s jumper had the Spurs within 73-66 in the opening minute of the
fourth, but the Suns responded with an 11-2 run. Nash hit a three and Thomas’
layup capped the burst for an 84-68 lead with 8:07 left. Another Thomas layup
moved the advantage to 90-71 with 4:42 remaining.

Raja Bell scored 18 points and Leandro Barbosa 13 for the Suns, who ended at
52.6 percent shooting.

Shawn Marion had five points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, but he, along with
Thomas, picked up praise for strong defense.

“It allowed us to play really good defense,” said Suns coach Mike D’Antoni,
who celebrated his 56th birthday on Tuesday. “Shawn and Kurt together just
took their guys that hurt us.”

Bowen had 13 points and Michael Finley 11 for the Spurs.

Early on, Bell’s three-pointer boosted the Suns to a 7-1 lead, but San Antonio
rallied for a 15-13 lead following a three from Finley. The Spurs expanded
that advantage to 25-19 going into the second.

However, the second quarter belonged to the Suns with a 30-17 scoring edge.
Ginobili’s jumper moved his team ahead 33-32 with 5:03 left in the half, but
Phoenix embarked on a 9-2 spurt, culminated by a Marion three. Bell’s three-
point play moved the margin to 49-39 before Bowen hit a three in the waning
seconds of the half.

An emphatic slam by Stoudemire, off a feed from Nash, expanded the cushion to
56-44 with under eight minutes left in the third, but the Spurs rallied and
got within five, but were still down, 71-64, going into the fourth.

“We feel pretty confident of where we were at certain points,” Duncan said.
“We just weren’t able to turn that corner.”

Duncan scored the first 15 San Antonio points of the third quarter, but he
picked up his fourth foul with 2:56 left in the period.

Game Notes

It was the largest margin of victory for the Suns over the Spurs in a playoff
game…The Suns snapped a four-game home postseason losing streak to the
Spurs…Phoenix snapped San Antonio’s five-game losing streak…The Spurs had
20 turnovers, leading to 24 Phoenix points.