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Tony Parker led all scorers with 31, including a huge jumper with 29.8 seconds left, as the Spurs eliminated the Suns for the fourth time in their last five playoff appearances.
San Antonio 92, Phoenix 87
SAN ANTONIO, April 29 (AP) -- Tim Duncan was not all smiles after the San Antonio Spurs eliminated the Phoenix Suns yet again from the playoffs. Written on the big man's face was only one thing: relief.
"Just happy we're done with them," he said.
Really, was there ever any doubt?
The Spurs dispatched the Suns with a 92-87 Game 5 victory Tuesday in what has become almost a postseason ritual for the defending champions.
The veteran team moves on to the Western Conference semifinals against the No. 2 seed Hornets, led by playoff rookie Chris Paul, in a series that begins Saturday in New Orleans.
The Suns go home again, falling to their postseason nemesis for the second straight year and the fourth time in five playoff appearances. The Hornets finished off their series with the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, also in five games.
"We went up against a team that knows how to win," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Every time we needed to close something out -- a half or a game -- they got the best of us. That's why they're the champions."
Duncan had 29 points and 17 rebounds and Tony Parker scored 31 points for San Antonio. They were the only Spurs to score in the double digits.
"Every year it seems like we always play the Spurs, and they beat us every single time," Stoudemire said. "As long as I'm here we're going to break it sooner or later, because I'm tired of losing to these guys. I'm sick and fed up."
Five Suns players scored in double figures and they outshot the Spurs from the field, but they had a number of costly turnovers down the stretch.
With the Spurs up 88-87 after battling back and forth with the Suns throughout the fourth quarter, Manu Ginobili, who had been cold all night, hit one of two from the line with 25 seconds on the clock.
Steve Nash turned the ball over on an inbounds pass, and Phoenix sent Ginobili to the line again with 23 seconds left. Ginobili hit both this time to make it 91-87.
Nash's 3-point attempt missed and Duncan hit another free throw. Diaw's last-second 3 missed, but it wouldn't have made a difference.
Nash had three of the Suns' seven fourth-quarter turnovers and finished with only three assists.
"We should have probably just calmed down a little bit. I'll take the responsibility for that. I know I made a couple of key turnovers that cost us, and we didn't deserve to win," Nash said.
"I think on paper we have more talent than they do. But I think their experience, their commitment and understanding of what they're trying to do is greater than ours. Their ability to play together and make small plays on both ends of the floor is unsurpassed."
The Spurs outscored the Suns 23-15 in the fourth quarter, led by nine points apiece from Duncan and Parker.
"We treated it like a Game 7 in the fourth quarter," Parker said. "We just stayed in the game and kept fighting."
It was widely predicted that this might finally be the Suns' year -- that they were hungrier that the aging Spurs. A seven-game series wouldn't have been a surprise and plenty expected this to be the best of all the first-round series.
Early on, it delivered with a Game 1 double-overtime thriller that the Spurs won after a couple of clutch 3-pointers.
San Antonio won its second game at home, then really took control of the series by rolling over the Suns in Phoenix in Game 3.
Phoenix tried to become the first NBA team to come back from an 0-3 deficit, and they won Game 4 in Phoenix with gusto. They stayed in Game 5 until the end, trying to force a Game 6 back in Phoenix.
Instead, the Suns go home, falling short despite the midseason blockbuster trade for O'Neal -- who was brought in specifically to match up better with teams like San Antonio.
"They beat us with the intangibles," said Raja Bell, who had 14 points. "They beat us with the little things. They beat us with the gamesmanship. They beat us with the attention to detail. The game plan. The commitment to doing all the little things to win games.
"That's why they're the champs. That's why year-in and year-out no matter what people say about them they find a way to be right there in the mix and vie for a championship."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had his players intentionally foul O'Neal, a 52 percent career free-throw shooter, throughout the game. He finished 9-of-20 from the line, dropping the Suns to 20-of-37 total on free throws.
The Spurs hit 24 of 30 free throws, led by 13-of-16 shooting by Parker.
Down three points to start the fourth, the Spurs battled back and Parker's under-the-basket feed to Duncan gave the Spurs a 77-76 lead with 6:43 to play.
Nash's first basket of the quarter, a mid-range jumper, put the Suns back up by one, 82-81, with 3:10 on the clock. After Parker's jumper put the Spurs up 85-82, Nash answered with his first 3 of the night to tie it.
Nash fouled Parker, who hit one of two from the line to give the Spurs a one-point cushion. His free throw was the go-ahead basket for the Spurs.
With just under 40 seconds to play, Diaw threw the ball out of bounds and Parker's jumper fell with 29 on the clock for an 88-85 Spurs lead. Diaw's quick layup brought Phoenix within 88-87.
The Spurs jumped out to as much as an eight-point lead in the first quarter before the Suns evened things in the second.But the Spurs closed the half with an 11-2 run led by Parker, who had 20 points in the half, to go up 54-45.
In the third the Suns went on a 15-2 run, with O'Neal on the bench for most of it with four fouls, to take the lead. Bell's jumper as he fell to the floor put the Suns up 62-60 and his 3 after the Suns grabbed an offensive board and passed the ball all over the floor to finally find him open put them up 65-62.
Notes: Popovich also tried the so-called "Hack-a-Skinner'' on Suns F-C Brian Skinner toward the end of the first quarter. Skinner, a 56 percent career free-throw shooter, hit three of four. ... Ginobili was just 2-of-11 from the field and scored eight points. All of his points in the fourth quarter were on free throws. ... Nash finished 4-of-16 from the field for 11 points. ... Kurt Thomas had 12 rebounds for San Antonio. ... Suns starting F-G Grant Hill was inactive, missing his second straight game with a groin injury.