PHOENIX, April 13 (Ticker) --
Happiness for Stephon Marbury
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Marbury scored 23 points and added 10 assists as the Phoenix
Suns clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western
Conference by ending the San Antonio Spurs' 11-game winning
streak with a 92-85 victory.
Phoenix is set to return to the playoffs after missing the
postseason last year for the first time in 14 years. San
Antonio missed a chance to clinch the best record in the NBA and
home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The wait for Marbury was even longer as he had not been in the
postseason since the Minnesota Timberwolves lost a five-game
series to Seattle in 1998. Marbury was acquired before last
season from the New Jersey Nets in a trade that seemed to be
lopsided in favor of New Jersey, but Phoenix finally earned some
"Right now, I'm probably the happiest person on this earth,"
Marbury said. "It's the happiest I've ever been since my kids
were born. It's just a great feeling, just to be back in
Marbury shared a warm embrace with teammate Jake Voskuhl
the game and broke down in tears after retiring to the locker
room. He had been dogged by criticisms that he was selfish and
the total antithesis of a team player, but turned in a season
for the Suns in which his team play and improved attitude helped
unify a young squad.
"That was a very emotional moment in the locker room, especially
for Stephon," Phoenix coach Frank Johnson said. "He just wept
because he was so happy. There was a lot on him in coming here
and with what happened last year and how we played. Then, to
come back this year, he carried us, and we rode him through
games like you wouldn't believe."
The Suns also served notice that they will not be easy pickings
in a likely first-round series with the Spurs. Phoenix won the
season series, 3-1, and San Antonio's lone win came in overtime.
"It's not necessarily that we match up against the Spurs,"
Marbury said. "It's great that we won the season series. But
it's playoff time and it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter."
scored 24 points for Phoenix, which has won four
straight and eight out of 10. The Suns finished the regular
season on a five-game home winning streak.
gave Phoenix the lead for good with a pair of
jumpers as part of a 7-0 spurt in the third quarter. His two
free throws capped it and opened a 72-65 advantage with 2:25
Johnson had 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter.
"I think it all started right before training camp," Joe Johnson
said. "We all came together as one, and we just worked hard
throughout the season."
Phoenix's swarming defensive scheme bottled up reigning MVP Tim
, who was limited to eight shots. The Suns' constant
double- and triple-teaming forced to Duncan to find perimeter
shooters, who combined to make just 28 percent (5-of-18) from
beyond the arc.
"It was their game plan," Duncan said. "They came at me hard. We
got the ball out of there, but just didn't hit some shots."
The Spurs turned in a sloppy effort with 22 turnovers and also
shot poorly at the line, making just 14-of-24 free throws.
San Antonio also had a nine-game road winning streak snapped.
Its last road loss was a 95-87 setback at Dallas on February 20.
Marbury recorded his 23rd double-double, victimizing San
Antonio's Tony Parker
in the process. Parker managed just seven
points and four assists.
"You never like anyone's defense on Stephon," San Antonio coach
Gregg Popovich said. "We haven't found anybody that's played
defense on Stephon. We're still looking for somebody to do
San Antonio stayed close down the stretch and was within 88-84
after Speedy Claxton
made the first of two free throws with 52
seconds to go. The Spurs came up with the miss on the second
attempt, but rookie Emanuel Ginobili
had a 3-pointer from the
top of the key blocked.
Ginobili and fellow reserve Malik Rose
each netted 18 points to
lead San Antonio while Duncan was limited to 15 and seven
rebounds. Duncan was the only starter in double figures for the
"They were trying to junk it up and that's kind of their game
plan," Duncan said. "Whenever we see them again, we have to be
better controlled and take some shots on basket."
"Tonight's game plan was to double their 'bigs' and make them do
something from the outside," Frank Johnson said. "He took only
eight shots because our double-teams were so aggressive."
Phoenix shot 35 percent (7-of-20 in the first quarter and
trailed, 20-15. San Antonio began to unravel a bit in the second
quarter. After rookie Amare Stoudemire
dunked on David
, Popovich was called for a technical. The Suns went on
to grab a 43-38 halftime edge.
Stoudemire and Penny Hardaway
each scored 10 points for Phoenix,
which shot 51.5 percent (35-of-68). Stoudemire grabbed seven
rebounds to lead the Suns.
Parker, Bruce Bowen
and Stephen Jackson
combined to make just
1-of-12 shots from the arc. Ginobili was the only Spur to find
the range, making 4-of-6 attempts.