(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)
By Josh Greene, Suns.com
Posted: May 6, 2007
Like any great heavyweight bout, Sunday’s Suns-Spurs Game 1 Conference Semifinals match-up had plenty of back-and-forth action, a fair share of knockdowns and even a little blood.
Or in Steve Nash’s case, lots of it.
Without the Suns’ playmaker in the lineup late in the fourth quarter due to a lacerated nose, San Antonio capitalized in a big way, taking a 1-0 series lead with a physical 111-106 win over the Suns.
With 2:53 left in the game, Nash, who had a team-high 31 points and eight assists, butted heads with Spurs counterpart Tony Parker, opening a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose. A quick fix by Head Athletic Trainer Aaron Nelson had the reigning NBA MVP back on the court in time to nail a game-tying three-pointer and then a lay-up with just over a minute to go, but with blood seeping through the bandage, he was forced to watch most of the final minute of play from the Suns’ bench.
“It was just a really big gash – wide and deep and we couldn’t get it to stop bleeding,” Nash said. “There wasn’t a lot of time left, so we didn’t think we had time to go in and stitch it up. We tried to manage it.
“That was the bottom line as that there was nothing I could do. It was obviously frustrating but it was really out of my hands, so I was just going to try to be positive for my teammates. Obviously I wanted to be out there and tried numerous times to get out there, but for whatever reason this happened.”
The game marked the first time this postseason Nash didn’t record a double-double, although his 31 points was a Suns high through six playoff games.
Leading by six with less than two minutes to play in the first half, foul trouble for Amaré Stoudemire meant a trip to the bench for the All-Star center and a wake-up call for the Spurs, who then went on a 21-8 run that extended into the second half.
San Antonio All-Stars Parker and Tim Duncan combined for 65 of the team’s 111 points (58.6 percent), shooting 26-of-46 (.565) from the field.
“Tony played great,” Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He was hitting his outside shot but he was also getting to the rim, too. We can’t have both of them. We need to get a handle on him. It’s not like we aren’t trying to stop him. He’s a great player.
“Amaré was really good on Duncan early, until he got into a little bit of foul trouble and we had to get him out. That took a little bit of his aggressiveness away. We’ll have to make some adjustments. Obviously we can’t give up 111 points and (let them) shoot 50-percent. For us to win, we’ll need to do a better job.”
Stoudemire notched his fifth double-double of the postseason with 20 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, the fourth consecutive game he’s led the team in rebounding. Over his last three playoff games, Stoudemire is averaging 18.3 boards.
“We need more of a collective rebounding effort,” said STAT, who also tallied a game-high five blocks. “I did my share out there, but we need to be full force. We have to come out as a team and just battle and do whatever it takes. You’d expect to have some war wounds afterwards, take the fouls and play through it.”
As a team, the Suns were out-rebounded 49-35, and were also out-shot from the perimeter, going 6-of-14 from beyond the arc compared to San Antonio’s 7-of-16 effort from outside.
With 16 points and six rebounds on the afternoon, Shawn Marion became the Suns’ all-time playoff leader in rebounds, passing Charles Barkley’s mark of 644 boards. The Matrix also surged past Ring of Honor great Tom Chambers as the franchise’s sixth all-time postseason scorer with 1,031 career points.
“Steve’s injury was a distraction,” the All-Star forward began, “but at the same time we still had a grasp on the game. I think if it wasn’t for a couple of calls here and there we probably would have won it. We were very poised there and we were very confident; we thought we had a chance to win.”
It took six stitches to close Nash’s wound after the game, but that was nothing compared to how many gauze pads, adhesive bandages, and sterile gloves Nelson went through in an effort to stem the flow of blood as the game was winding down.
“I’d rather he had broken his nose, because I could have plugged the nostrils and got him back out there,” the head athletic trainer said. "But when you’re dealing with the outside and something that needs to be stitched up, you just hope you can stop it and get him back out there.
“It was bleeding and it was going to keep bleeding. Every time we put a Band-Aid on it, it seeped out. It was a pretty significant cut.”
Team physician Thomas Carter added, “Steve's a funny guy. I asked him if he thought his nose was broken and he said he was hoping it was knocked back into place. He's a tough guy.”
Expected to suit up for Tuesday’s Game 2 at US Airways Center, Nash was understandably disappointed by his team’s overall effort Sunday and believed there is room for improvement.
“We have to stick with the game plan,” he said. “I think we have to be a little hungrier. I think some of us just didn’t have the fire it takes to be a world championship team, and that’s not giving yourself a chance. We have to play a little harder, and be a little more desperate.”
The loss marked the Suns’ third against San Antonio this year, but with all things being the postseason, the proverbial gloves are off for Round 2’s Game 2 in just under 48 hours.
“I’m not going to take anything away from these guys,” said D’Antoni about the Spurs. “You have to beat them, and we didn’t beat them. It’s almost like a heavyweight champ, you have to knock them out and we didn’t do it, but we’ll have a chance Tuesday.”