NBA.com: PLAYOFFS 2003
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San Antonio 94, Phoenix 82
Spurs Send Suns to Verge of Elimination

David Robinson and Tim Duncan enjoy the Game 4 win.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/NBAE

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SAN ANTONIO, April 29 (Ticker) -- Even with Malik Rose and Tim Duncan fueling a quick start, the San Antonio Spurs are learning that it is tough to finish off the Phoenix Suns.

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Rose and Duncan combined for 50 points and 30 rebounds as the Spurs built a big lead and held on for a 94-82 victory over the Suns and a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

Rose had 27 points and 13 rebounds while Duncan added 23 and 17 for the top-seeded Spurs, who can wrap up the series and advance to the conference semifinals for the fifth time in six years with a win at Phoenix on Thursday.

"They had our number in the season series," Rose said. "Hopefully, we can exorcise that in the playoffs. One more win to get but two games to get it."

Powered by Rose and Duncan, San Antonio raced to a 54-30 halftime lead, then spent the entire second half fighting off eighth-seeded Phoenix.

The Suns, who staged huge comebacks to win Games 1 and 4, appeared to be putting together another one. They cut the deficit to 10 points less than midway through the third quarter and to 85-79 with just under two minutes to go. But the Spurs made 9-of-13 free throws and held on.

"We've had some leads throughout this series and we've given them back," Duncan said. "We've been up 10, 12 points and they've gotten right back into the game."

"They really have posed challenges for us because of the way they move the ball, can penetrate and shoot the short jumper," Rose said. "Those are all ingredients to making it tough for us, but I think we have done a good job of slowing them down. They are a very tough team and just really come after you."

David Robinson had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs, who never trailed and held a 53-40 edge on the glass as their big men overpowered Phoenix's frontcourt.

Rose had the best playoff game of his career, making 9-of-17 shots and 9-of-10 free throws. He had 14 points and six boards in the second quarter.

"He was definitely key for us in our victory," Duncan said. "He really helped stretch their defense and got to the middle of the floor very easily. It was an easy target when they would come and double (me)."

Rose thought the player who had the biggest impact was Duncan, who made 6-of-13 shots and 11-of-13 free throws while adding six assists and five blocks.

"I felt that Tim really was the difference maker," Rose said. "I don't feel (that) a lot of the plays and open looks I would have had without the effort that he created."

Duncan had 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the first quarter, when the Suns made just 4-of-18 shots and fell behind, 27-16. A layup by Robinson pushed the advantage to 38-18 with 7:16 left in the second period.

"We expected them to come out with a lot of energy," said Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, who was saddled with early foul trouble. "Not only did they do that, but they shot the ball well, too."

But the Suns came storming back. Penny Hardaway scored eight points in a 17-3 run early in the second half that cut the deficit to 59-49 with just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

A free throw by Steve Smith and a jumper by Speedy Claxton slowed the surge and helped the Spurs rebuild the lead to 72-53 entering the final period. But the Suns rallied again.

A 3-pointer by Stephon Marbury and two free throws by Shawn Marion made it 84-77 with 2:29 to go. After a free throw by Rose, Marbury made a running layup to pull Phoenix within 85-79 with 1:49 remaining. But the Suns got no closer as the Spurs made their free throws.

"We just haven't had it the last couple of games for the entire game," Hardaway said. "In the third quarter we found that rhythm, and hopefully we can continue that and have it when the next one tips off."

Marion scored 22 points and Hardaway added 16 for the Suns, who shot less than 37 percent (30-of-82) from the field. Marbury scored just 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting. The Spurs lost starting guard Stephen Jackson to a twisted ankle late in the second quarter.

"He bumped his knee the first time we took him out," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He twisted his ankle the second time. I'm not sure of the status, but it was a good enough turn that he didn't go back in."



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