Home Sweet Home

David Robinson’s band of Spurs bounded into Phoenix fresh off a series with the defending Western Conference Champion Portland Trailblazers. The Suns, led by Barkley’s 27.6 scoring average and 14.4 rebounding average in five first-round games, were faced with a starting frontline just as tall and strong as the Lakers’ had proven to be. It was a challenge they’d faced throughout the season and one gladly accepted.

Barkley came into the playoffs with a career 56 percent shooting mark – second-highest ever in the NBA – but Antoine Carr and J.R. Reid caused him to force shots and post a horrid 5-21 from the field in a 98-89 Game 1 Suns win. KJ, owning a lightning-quick first step that left counterpart Avery Johnson in the dust at times, took over with 25 points and seven assists. Robinson tallied 32 points and a Suns playoff opponent record seven blocked shots.

In Game 2, fans saw Barkley unveil his “Superman” cape and score 35 points on 12-18 shooting to help Phoenix post a 109-103 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best of seven series. “There is a God!” Barkley exhorted as sweat dripped from his brow. Momentum was in the Suns’ favor with a swarming defense that forced San Antonio into poor shooting the first two games. But, as each team would find out, it was “home, sweet home.”

The series moved to San Antonio and, fueled by Carr’s 21 points and Avery Johnson’s 15 assists, the Spurs beat the Suns in Game 3, 111-96. “Not to worry,” said Phoenix, “it would’ve taken lots of luck to win twice on their court.”

Well, make that just once.

Danny Ainge summed it up, saying, “It’s never very hard to play on the road, it’s just hard to win on the road.” In Game 4, the Spurs tied the series at 2-2 with a 117-103 blowout. Robinson was back in the ‘hood and scored a career playoff high 36 points and grabbed 16 boards. KJ led the Suns with 26 points as Barkley struggled again with 7-for-20 shooting.

Carr’s first quarter ankle injury was a big blow to the Spurs, but veteran Larry Smith stepped into his shoes and controlled Barkley – at least momentarily. Just when they thought all was safe, the Suns stubbed their toes and booked a return flight to the HemisFair Arena for Game 6. Asked what they’d have to do to win, Barkley mumbled, “Go home. Just go home.”

With that said, Phoenix returned home and rebounded with a newfound attitude and a smack of magic that only Sir Charles could muster. Barkley was mortal through the first three quarters of Game 5. But in the fourth quarter, he again unfurled his cape – scoring 19 points, 16 during a 6:30 stretch. The Suns posted a 109-97 win as Barkley scored 36 points and KJ dished out 12 assists.

“Back to the Alamo for another taste of home cookin’,” the Spurs thought.

But, in stunning fashion, Phoenix ended the Spurs’ season on a Barkley 20-foot fadeaway with 1.8 seconds left. Sir Chuck’s line read 28 points (14 in the fourth), 21 rebounds, and four steals, but he wasn’t the only hero. Tom Chambers scored 10 points, including three buckets that keyed a 12-0 fourth quarter run when the Suns were down by 10.

Phoenix’s rally clinched a trip to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1990 and had Barkley chanting, “We’re gong to the conference finals, baby, we’re going to the conference finals.”