PHOENIX, May 1 (Ticker) -- Tim Duncan
passed the San Antonio Spurs right into the Western Conference Semifinals.
Duncan's smart passing in the fourth quarter led to a flurry of three-pointers that gave the Spurs an 87-85 victory over the Phoenix Suns and closed out their first-round series in six games.
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The top-seeded Spurs advanced to the conference semifinals for the third straight season and will face the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, who have eliminated them in each of the last two seasons.
"We're not scared," Spurs guard Tony Parker said. "We're ready, we're ready."
Duncan had 15 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career postseason triple-double, adding four blocks. He did not score in the fourth quarter but controlled the game as he repeatedly passed out of swarming double-teams to open temmates
on the perimeter.
"They switched up a little tonight," Duncan said. "They didn't double-team as quick early. We got two early threes so they
went back to their old stuff. That's my job, to quarterback back there."
On four straight possessions midway through the final period, the Spurs made shots from the arc. They turned a two-point
deficit into an 81-74 lead with 3:48 to play.
"Whenever you're going to try to track Tim Duncan, you're going to give up open shots," Suns guard Stephon Marbury said. "They did what they are supposed to do."
Two of the three-pointers came from rookie Manu Ginobili and the other two from Stephen Jackson, who scored 11 of his 21 points in the final six minutes. His layup at the 2:21 mark gave San Antonio an 83-76 advantage.
"Manu and Jack kind of took over," Duncan said. "They were double-teaming me in the post and we swung the ball around and
those guys were great."
Jackson, a former Phoenix draft pick, made three free throws in the final 30 seconds to hold off the pesky Suns. He bounced
back from a tendon injury in Game 5.
"I'm trying to win. You don't have time to be hurt," he said. "When your team needs you, you've got to come out and help
Shawn Marion had 24 points and 15 rebounds for eighth-seeded Phoenix, which beat San Antonio three times during the regular season and threw a scare into the Spurs in this series.
"I'm very proud of them," Suns coach Frank Johnson said. "I would have loved for us to go further, but we ran into a better
"The Suns were a great eight seed and they played so tough," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If they had hit their shots
down the stretch, we would probably be playing a seventh game."
Three baskets by Joe Johnson early in the fourth quarter gave the Suns their last lead at 71-69 before the Spurs began connecting from long range.
A ball swing from Duncan to Parker led to Jackson's three-pointer that gave San Antonio the lead for good. On the next
possession, Duncan found Ginobili for an open three-pointer and a 75-71 lead with 4:54 to go.
After another three-pointer by Ginobili, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire dunked for a three-point play. But Duncan found Jackson at the top of the circle for another three-pointer.
"I knew with our double-teaming that if they were able to hit their outside shots, we'd be doomed," Johnson said. "They
started hitting those threes and it was tough for us."
A three-pointer by Penny Hardaway pulled the Suns within 83-79 with 1:32 to play. But while the Spurs were making just 4-of-10 free throws in the final 90 seconds, Marion, Hardaway and Marbury missed three-pointers.
Marion made a pair from the arc in the final five seconds, but by then it was too late.
Parker scored 17 points and Ginobili added 12 for the Spurs, who shot just 38 percent (29-of-76) overall, including 9-of-24 from the arc. They also missed 20-of-35 free throws and committed 19 turnovers.
Stoudemire had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, which shot 36 percent (32-of-88) and held a 51-47 advantage on the glass. Marbury also scored 18 points but made just 5-of-19 shots and committed six turnovers before fouling out.
"He put us on his shoulders at times," Johnson said. "Sometimes he carried us. Tonight was certainly not his finest hour, but he's had plenty this year."
San Antonio trailed, 19-15, late in the first quarter before putting together a 15-2 surge. A three-point play by Duncan and
a steal and layup by Speedy Claxton gave the Spurs a 30-21 lead early in the second period.
The Suns responded with nine straight points to tie it and grabbed a 43-41 halftime lead. A three-pointer by Marion capped a
9-0 spurt that opened the second half and pushed the advantage to 52-41, but the Spurs tightened their defense and fought back for a 64-61 lead entering the final period.