Nash recovers to lead Suns over SpursMay 9, 2007 - 7:42 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns had it sewn up early against the San Antonio Spurs.
Playing with six stitches in his nose, Nash collected 20 points and 16 assists and Amare Stoudemire added 21 of his 27 points in the second half for the Suns, who rebounded from a tough loss in the series opener to post a 101-81 victory over the Spurs in Game Two of their Western Conference semifinal.
Raja Bell added 18 points for Phoenix, which opened each period with decisive runs to set the tone for the game en route to its largest margin of victory in a playoff game in franchise history.
"It seemed like we were quicker and that's what it takes, you can't always play really well in the playoffs," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You can't play real pretty sometimes. You have to gut it out and grind it out and it will eventually catch on.
"In the meantime, you have to play every position like it is Game Seven, especially against these guys. These guys will do that and hopefully we are learning to do that."
Phoenix suffered a 111-106 defeat in Sunday's series opener. The key moment came with 2:53 remaining, when Nash and Spurs guard Tony Parker collided.
Parker stayed on the floor for a moment and ended up with a bump on his forehead. Nash had a gash across the bridge of his nose that would not stop bleeding despite treatment at nearly every break in the game.
But on Tuesday, Nash put on a virtuoso performance, setting up his teammates for easy shots and igniting Phoenix's patented fast break.
"Steve is a warrior with the cut on his nose," Stoudemire said. "He was still able to get inside the paint, draw some fouls, attack the basket and still hit some open jumpers."
Nash, who chided his teammates for not playing hungry enough in Game One, liked what he saw this time around.
"Yes, I thought we played a lot harder," Nash said. "I said in the Laker series that we should judge ourselves on our energy and concentration, and I thought in Game One we didn't do that.
"If we're honest with ourselves, we didn't play as hard as we could. I thought tonight was a lot closer to what we need, and in San Antonio it's going to have to be even more."
Thanks to the generosity from the two-time MVP, newly minted starter Kurt Thomas scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field.
"Kurt did not slow us up at all," D'Antoni said. "Kurt was unbelievable. If he plays like that, it allows us to play real good defense."
However, Thomas' main duties were to put a big body on Spurs superstar Duncan, who collected 29 points and 11 rebounds and shot 12-of-20 from the field. But the All-Star forward was short-circuited due to foul trouble, picking up his fourth with 2:56 left in the third quarter on Stoudemire's quick drive to the hoop.
"I definitely tried to make (Duncan) work," Thomas said. "I think it carried over in the fourth quarter. He just made his shots in the fourth quarter, but that's the key - to make him work for each and every point out there."
"I think (Thomas starting) helped because Tim (Duncan) is so well respected, it keeps me out of foul trouble," Stoudemire said. "Kurt is such a great defensive interior player to where that helped as well. It kind of threw (Duncan) off balance. He hit some tough shots there down the stretch, but it was a great adjustment."
Known for his ferocious finishes, Stoudemire did not dunk the ball once in Game One but snapped out of his funk to slam the ball home five times Tuesday. He was in fine form in the second half, turning quickly as soon as he received passes to make defiant swoops to the basket.
"Early I missed some eight-foot jumpers I normally knock down and missed a couple of layups," Stoudemire said. "In the second half, I just came out strong and wanted to attack the basket. Winning like this lets us know that we are definitely capable of beating the Spurs and now it is going to be a battle."
Many of his points came off of fancy feeds from reserve forward Boris Diaw, who collected six points, five assists and seven rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench. Leandro Barbosa added 13 points for Phoenix, which shot 53 percent (40-of-76).
Parker and Bruce Bowen scored 13 points apiece for San Antonio, which will host Game Three on Saturday. The Spurs looked out of sync all game, shooting just 43 percent (33-of-77).
"In situations like this, you can say the adjustments worked, they got a victory, but they played hard tonight," Bowen said. "They were a little more desperate than we were getting loose balls and being more physical tonight. I think they came out with the mind-set of being more physical and aggressive."
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich admitted that his team did not play up to its normal standards.
"I thought we were supposed to be the defensive team coming into the playoffs here against Phoenix, but they made us look like novices tonight in that regard," Popovich said. "I thought they maintained aggressiveness, physicality and a pursuit of the basketball for 48 minutes. We gave into that. We didn't maintain it, and the result is as you see it."
SAN ANTONIO 81
PHOENIX 101 FINAL
May 9 1:06 AM
SAN ANTONIO 64
PHOENIX 71 END, 3RD QTR
May 9 12:36 AM
SAN ANTONIO 42
PHOENIX 49 HALFTIME
May 8 11:48 PM
SAN ANTONIO 25
PHOENIX 19 END, 1ST QTR
May 8 11:16 PM
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