Thursday , May , 17 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Spurs surge past short-handed Suns, take 3-2 series lead

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Bruce Bowen hit the go-ahead three-pointer with
36.4 seconds left, and the Spurs took advantage of the Amare Stoudemire
suspension to beat the Phoenix Suns, 88-85, in Game 5 of their Western
Conference semifinal series.

Manu Ginobili had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Tim Duncan had 21 points and
12 boards for the Spurs, who took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven set and can
advance to the conference finals with a victory in Game 6 Friday at San
Antonio.

“We went through a lot of adversity and we responded,” Ginobili said. “I’m
very happy and proud.”

Shawn Marion was big offensively for the Suns with 24 points and 17 rebounds,
but Phoenix blew a 16-point lead in the second quarter and couldn’t come out
on top despite holding the Spurs to 33 first-half points. Steve Nash had 19
points and 12 assists in a losing effort.

“It was a lot to ask when you look back,” Nash said. “We needed more out of
each of us and we just didn’t have it. It’s frustrating because we were very
close, but it’s not over.”

However, the Spurs are one win away from their third trip to the conference
finals in five years, and a possible meeting with the Utah Jazz.

Both teams were shorthanded for the game, but the Suns were without their top
scorer and rebounder due to a one-game suspension. On Tuesday, the NBA
suspended Phoenix forwards Stoudemire and Boris Diaw one game apiece and Spurs
forward Robert Horry for two games. The penalties came as the result of a
flagrant foul call on Horry, who delivered a forearm to Nash with 18.2
seconds left in Monday’s 104-98 Phoenix victory at San Antonio.

The Spurs used a 17-6 run to end the game. They trailed 79-71 with 5:18 left
after a layup from James Jones, but San Antonio eventually tied it at 79 on a
Tony Parker jumper with 2:29 left.

Marion’s bucket gave the Suns the lead again, but Duncan hit two foul shots
and then came up with a key block. Ginobili made a steal with just over a
minute left, but gave the ball back to the Suns on a bad pass. However, Marion
missed a turnaround jumper.

The Spurs then went ahead for good as Bowen nailed a three from the right
corner.

“It’s the shot we want from him,” Duncan said. “It’s the shot we love for him
to take. Every time he lets it go, I think there’s 13 guys over there thinking
it’s going in. We’ve got that confidence in him and he has the confidence to
shoot the shot.”

Marion missed a three, but two Duncan missed foul shots kept Phoenix in the
game. However, Nash missed a three.

Nash did have two free throws to get the Suns within a point with 11.7 seconds
left, but Ginobili made two at the charity stripe. Nash then missed another
shot from beyond the arc, and Michael Finley nailed two foul shots with 5.5
seconds left to make it 88-83, effectively sealing the win.

Raja Bell made a layup with 1.6 seconds to go, but the Spurs successfully
inbounded the ball to run out the clock.

Finley had 13 points and Parker 11 for the Spurs, while Kurt Thomas had 15
points and 12 boards for Phoenix.

The Suns used a make-shift lineup to replace Stoudemire, who is averaging 23.9
points and 12.1 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Bell started at forward
with Marion, while Leandro Barbosa joined Nash in the backcourt, and Thomas
started at center.

The Suns scored 16 straight points for a 24-11 lead in the opening quarter and
were ahead 24-13 going into the second. San Antonio went 4-of-18 from the
field in the opening 12 minutes and Marion was off to a fabulous start with 11
points and seven boards. However, he had just four points in the second half.

Although Phoenix led by 11 at the half, the Suns lost an opportunity to pull
away in the second. A layup by Barbosa moved the lead to 40-24 with 2:47 left
in the half, but the Spurs were still within striking distance at the break,
thanks to shoddy shooting by the home team.

“We played through a whole lot, couldn’t throw it in the ocean in the first
half,” Duncan said. “(We) just found a way to stick.”

Phoenix was 17-of-40 shooting in the first half, while the Spurs were
13-of-39, and San Antonio capitalized on its chance in the third, drawing
within 46-42 on a Duncan layup inside of nine minutes left in the period.

Phoenix moved to a double-digit lead later in the quarter and was ahead 62-56
going into the fourth after Ginobili hit a three in the closing seconds.

Thomas made two free throws for a 67-56 lead with 10:24 left, but San Antonio
rallied with a 10-2 run, with Ginobili and Bowen hitting threes.

Game Notes

The 13 points represented the least for the Spurs in a quarter the entire
season…The Spurs have won eight straight Game 5s in the playoffs,..Duncan
also blocked five shots.

PHO SAN