SAN ANTONIO, May 30 (Ticker) --
Put away the brooms. Pack a small
travel bag. The Western Conference finals are going back to
With Amaré Stoudemire
outplaying Tim Duncan
down the stretch,
the Suns fought off elimination and perhaps created some
momentum with a 111-106 victory over the sloppy San Antonio
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"We're going to go to Phoenix and try to win one more game,"
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
said. "That's what we are thinking
about, see what happens. You never know what lurks around the
corner. We're going to give it a shot, then roll with it."
Stoudemire scored 11 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter for
the top-seeded Suns, who finally got some stops with the game on
the line. Their defense had been decimated in the first three
games, all losses that had pushed their magical season to the
"When you are down 0-3, it's not easy to play extremely strong,"
Stoudemire said. "We showed a lot of heart as a team, played
great down the stretch."
The crowd at the SBC Center was sensing a sweep, with many
bringing brooms that they waved to taunt the Suns. However, the
second-seeded Spurs were beaten badly in transition, missed 12
of 23 free throws and never led in the fourth quarter.
"The mood is not the best," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili
"We're upset because we know we made too many mistakes. We
didn't have a great game. We missed too many free throws, so
it's upsetting to know that you had a big chance and let it go."
Despite its inexplicable performance, San Antonio was within
104-103 after a layup by Ginobili with 1:46 to go. On the next
possession, Stoudemire muscled his way over the 7-foot Duncan
for a layup.
At the other end, Stoudemire came up with a strip of Duncan, who
was making his move in the paint. He was fouled and made
1-of-2 free throws for a 107-103 lead with 1:11 left.
drained a 3-pointer, but Stoudemire put in a layup -
completing a stunning play started by Steve Nash
, who passed
while falling backward out of bounds - before making the play of
Duncan took a pass from Ginobili and rose for what appeared to
be an uncontested dunk. Stoudemire's hand met the ball as
Duncan brought it down and stopped it cold.
"Those are plays that needed to happen down the stretch,"
Stoudemire said. "We needed some stops and I stepped up and
tried to make that block on Tim. As my years progress, I am
pretty sure I can become a better defensive player. Right now I
am just trying to do the things I am capable of doing."
"Just extra force, extra gear," D'Antoni said. "He got the
block, a couple of buckets that he had rebounds, just went
after, just saw the determination, quick and strong. He just
Stoudemire sealed the win by running down an offensive rebound
and finding Nash, who sank two free throws with 6.2 seconds
"Unbelievable two minutes or whatever it was for him," Nash
said. "Even as a teammate, we just were in awe. He was all over
the place. Obviously the block was incredible. He had one
finish down the lane where I thought Tim tried to foul him and
they didn't call it and he still finished the play. I think he
really raised his game a level tonight."
Stoudemire made 13-of-23 shots as he eclipsed 30 points for the
seventh time in as many games vs. the Spurs this season. Unlike
the first three games, he got plenty of help.
, who missed the first two games with a fractured
orbital bone, scored 26 points. Shawn Marion
, who had been shut
down by Bowen, scored all 11 points in the second half.
The duo combined for 22 points in the third quarter, when the
Suns scored 35 points to turn a seven-point deficit into an
"Joe Johnson is very important for us. I think we see that,"
D'Antoni said. "Getting him back is definitely a blessing."
"They had all the pressure," Marion said. "We just had to go out
there and play our game. We were just out there playing. We
really didn't care what the results were gonna be."
Nash had 17 points and 12 assists for Phoenix, which shot a
blistering 57 percent (44-of-77) and scored 26 fast-break points
to ensure Game 5 at home on Wednesday.
"This is big for us," Johnson said. "We get to go home now and
we get our fans behind us. We just have to come out with the
same intensity and I think we can go home and come out of there
with another victory."
Ginobili scored 28 points but Duncan was held to 15, adding 16
rebounds. The big man had made 30-of-33 free throws through the
first three games but sank just 3-of-12 in this one.
Had the Spurs won, they could have had as many as nine days off
before the opener of the NBA Finals.
"I don't think it shakes us," Duncan said. "I think we regroup,
we go in there the next game and try to get it again. I think
they played very well and we played poorly. So the combination
of both really gave them the game."
In a first half of spurts, the Spurs had the last one, a 10-2
surge that closed the period and opened a 59-52 lead. However,
the Suns responded with their best quarter of the series.
Johnson and Marion had 3-pointers in a 15-2 burst that gave
Phoenix an 83-71 bulge with just under four minutes to go.
Duncan went scoreless in the period, which ended with San
Antonio trailing, 87-80.
Ginobili's 3-pointer made it 95-93 with 6:43 left before
Stoudemire hammered home a dunk and Nash threw in a left-handed
scoop layup for a three-point play and a 100-93 lead.
Marion's corner jumper made it 102-94 with 3:38 left before the
Spurs made a final push.
"They did a great job of pushing the basketball and just ripped
our transition defense apart," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
"I think the stats say there are 26 transition points, but there
are more than that. They found people, they shot, our
transition defense was poor. That was the ballgame."