Tony Parker and Tim Duncan scored nine points apiece in the final quarter of Game 5, thanks partly to seven fourth-quarter Suns turnovers, as Phoenix fell apart down the stretch in what looked like a bad case of elimination-game jitters. Parker finished with a game-high 31 points and eight assists, while Duncan tallied 29 points, 17 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Boris Diaw, who came through for a 20-point, 10-rebound double stack in Phoenix's Game 4 win, continued that strong play for three quarters in San Antonio, scoring 18 points as the Suns rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to take a 72-69 lead into the fourth. The fifth-year forward scored four more in the final stanza, but also made two crucial turnovers and had clearly lost the confidence he'd played with early in the game.
Diaw wasn't the only Sun who struggled. After notching just four points and no assists in the first half, Steve Nash scored 11 in the second but turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter, twice in the last minute-and-a-half, as the entire Suns frontcourt -- Diaw, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal -- was hampered with five fouls each. Stoudemire, who failed to score down the stretch, finished with 15 points and 11 boards.
Also, the Spurs again put coach Gregg Popovich's "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy to good use. From the 2:58 mark in the first quarter until halfway through the third, "Deisel" made 14 trips to the charity stripe , coming away with five points, until Suns coach Mike D'Antoni finally sat him for the rest of the period. In the end, O'Neal went 9-for-20 from the line and finished with 13 points and nine boards. (One Shaq-hacker, Jacque Vaughn, checked into the game twice, tallying 38 seconds and two fouls on the night.)
With this contentious series wrapped up, the Spurs have a few days off before taking on the No. 2-seed New Orleans Hornets, who eliminated the Dallas Mavericks on Monday in another dominating performance. This Western Conference semifinal matchup is set to open Saturday, May 3, on TNT.