Phoenix 104, San Antonio 98

SAN ANTONIO, May 14 (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns' 12-1 run to end Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals gave them a 104-98 victory Monday night that evened the series with the San Antonio Spurs.

The tension that has been building between the teams throughout nearly boiled over with 18 seconds to play.

The Suns, who trailed by as many as 11 points, had taken the lead for the first time in the second half on consecutive behind-the-back feeds from Steve Nash to Amare Stoudemire that made it 100-97 with 32 seconds to play.

As Nash started to bring the ball up the court after Manu Ginobili missed the Spurs' fourth straight shot, San Antonio's Robert Horry hit him with a forearm that knocked him into the scorers' table and had players from both teams rushing to the scene.

Phoenix's Raja Bell tried to get at Horry as did Nash after he jumped to his feet.

Horry was given a flagrant foul and was ejected. Bell was given a technical foul. A free throw by each team made it 101-98. The Suns kept possession and Nash added another free throw with 16 seconds to go.

"He just body checked me out of bounds,'' Nash said. "I understand he's frustrated, it happens but he did body check me.''

Shawn Marion added two free throws with 7.4 seconds to go.

Game 5 is Wednesday night in Phoenix and it's possible there could be suspensions from the league for players leaving the bench after Horry fouled Nash.

"Simply, we stuck with it. We could've folded a lot of times,'' Nash said. "They were playing great and made a lot of shots.''

Stoudemire led the Suns with 26 points, while Nash had 24 points and 15 assists.

"We needed to open the floor off Steve some and get that balance,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Tonight we were able to go smaller and get away with it.

"We just have to have that desperation and play with the fury we did in the last quarter.''

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23 points and Tim Duncan had 21 points and 11 rebounds.

The increasingly hostile series has been marked by bumps, bruises and harsh words. A gash across Nash's nose required six stitches after a collision with Parker in Game 1 and Ginobili got a bloodied and bruised eye in Game 3 on a drive to the basket.

Last week, Stoudemire called the Spurs a "dirty team'' and targeted Bruce Bowen and Ginobili in particular. He said Bowen purposely kicked him in the Suns' Game 2 win.

And Bowen gave his critics ammunition when in Game 3 on Saturday he kneed Nash in the groin area. Nash said Monday before the game that Bowen told him on the court that the move was unintentional. The foul originally called on the play was upgraded to a flagrant foul one.

The Spurs entered the fourth quarter leading 80-72.

Marion's dunk with 1:31 to go brought the Suns within one, and Stoudemire's first layup put the Suns up 98-97. It was their first lead since 3:38 left in the second quarter, when they were up 38-37.

Marion was largely absent offensively, scoring just three points heading into the final quarter. His 3 with 8:33 to go, followed by another basket, brought the Suns within 85-80 with 7:51 to play. Marion finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Kurt Thomas had 14 points and Bell 12.

Stoudemire, who sat much of the second half of Saturday's Game 3 with foul trouble, picked up his fourth and fifth fouls just four seconds apart in the fourth quarter. He went to the bench with 6:54 left in the game.

Michael Finley had 17 points, including four 3-pointers, for San Antonio, Brent Barry added 12 and Ginobili had 10 points.

The Suns led 20-12 in the first quarter as Nash, who was scoreless in the first half of Game 3, made his first three shots. Phoenix was up 24-22 heading into the second quarter but Nash cooled, missing three of four shots. He also picked up his first foul, and complained about it, when Bowen fell to the court as the two ran down the floor on a break.

Stoudemire played just 49 seconds in the second quarter when he picked up his second foul with 11:11 to play.

The Suns, who held the Spurs to just 81 points in their Game 2 win, outrebounded the Spurs 23-17 in the first half and 42-32 in the game.

Notes: Many Spurs fans were wearing a dab of black under their left eyes in support of Ginobili. The display mimicked Game 2, when a local radio station passed out bandages for Suns fans to wear over their noses in support of Nash after his injury. ... The Spurs' bench outscored the Suns' reserves 28-16.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited