Tensions continue to rise as Suns even series with SpursMay 15, 2007 - 7:21 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Robert Horry sent Steve Nash flying. But Amare Stoudemire made sure the Phoenix Suns were riding high into a pivotal Game Five.
Stoudemire scored 26 points, attacking a foul-plagued Tim Duncan down the stretch, and Nash collected 24 points and 15 assists as the Suns escaped with a 104-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, tying their Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece.
Shawn Marion had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who outscored the Spurs, 32-18, in the final period, including an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the second half.
"Obviously, it was hard fought," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We played with a lot of heart and courage and they (Spurs) did the same. I don't know if when they got up by 10 they got overconfident, but we played hard and came back. Marion was unbelievable. This was what we needed. It's tied up, 2-2, and we go back to Phoenix."
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili was at a loss for words.
"I really don't know what happened. That's why we're so upset," Ginobili said. "We were playing very good. We were containing them and then on offense we couldn't get anything done. We stopped moving the ball as well as we could before."
Dormant for most of the contest, Phoenix's offense kicked into high gear when it mattered most. Trailing, 97-92, with 2:13 left, the Suns reeled off four straight quality possessions - capped by Stoudemire's defiant drive to make it 100-97 with 33 seconds left.
"Defensively, Steve (Nash) kind of got away from us and started hitting Amare on cuts and started playing much better, but I think today we messed it up on offense," Ginobili said. "We just kind of stopped playing."
In a series on the verge of spiraling out of control thanks to a pair of ugly injuries, tensions continued to ride high as a result of some perceived dirty play. On Monday, Horry continued the chippy play.
As the Suns were about to secure the victory down the stretch, the veteran forward shouldered a dribbling Nash into the scorer's table with 18.2 seconds left, sending him careening to the floor.
"I was trying to skate between him and the board and he got me with a nice hip-check," Nash said. "What can I say? It was a pretty nice hip-check. I think you have to stand up for yourself sometime, and you roll with the punches, literally, most of the time.
"But I felt it was a little uncalled for and I guess you always have to take the high road and turn the other cheek. I knew he was going to foul me, I just didn't think it was going to be of that variety."
Stoudemire was not surprised.
"I thought it was a tough foul and I guess that's the way that they play," Stoudemire said.
D'Antoni flew to Nash's side and Suns guard Raja Bell shoved Horry, nearly sparking a full-fledged brawl before the referees cooled the rising tempers.
Stoudemire and Suns forward Boris Diaw took a few steps on the court from the bench before being held back by assistant coach Mark Iavaroni, leaving open the possibility the two key performers could be suspended for the pivotal Game Five.
"Just a little concerned (about being suspended)," Stoudemire said. "I was definitely going to check in. Coach Mike said to check into the game on the stop of possession. I was on my way up to the scorer's table when it happened.
"I was coming up on it (Horry's foul), right behind by the scorer's table and then it all happened. I was just trying to check in on the foul because I knew it was important to get back into the game."
It certainly was not the first sign of rising tensions between the two squads in this best-of-seven matchup.
Ginobili was the second player to suffer a battle scar in Game Three. The swingman was scraped just beneath his right eye in Saturday's 108-101 victory, leaving him with a nasty bruise.
It marked yet another gruesome injury in this series. Nash suffered a deep cut to his nose in Game One. The two-time MVP's nose bled profusely in the latter stages of the contest, forcing the Suns to keep him off the floor.
The bruises have not just been on the court. After Game Two, Stoudemire accused Spurs defensive specialist Bruce Bowen of being a dirty player, causing the Spurs and Stoudemire to trade barbs following the contest.
However, Stoudemire did his talking on the court this time around. The All-Star forward shot 9-of-18 from the floor and 8-of-8 from the line. Nash was 8-of-12, including 2-of-3 from the arc for Phoenix, which won for just the second time in its last 13 games in San Antonio.
"Well, I thought they were playing extremely well in the second and third quarter, they were hard to stop because they were hitting threes and making big shots," Nash said. "We just managed to hang around and give ourselves a chance to pick up our defense and offense and play some better basketball."
Duncan, who picked up his fifth foul with 6:18 left, still collected 21 points and 11 rebounds and Tony Parker had 23 points and seven assists for the Spurs, who were outrebounded by the Suns, 42-32.
"It's a tough loss. A lot of stuff didn't go our way in the fourth quarter, and it's hard to explain," Parker said. "We have to go back and watch film and see what we can do better. I believe we executed poorly on both offense and defense there at the end."
SAN ANTONIO 98 FINAL
May 15 12:34 AM
NBA END 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
PHOENIX 24 16 32 72
SAN ANTONIO 22 23 35 80 END 3RD QTR
HIGH SCORERS AFTER 3RD QUARTER
PHO - STEVE NASH 18, AMARE STOUDEMIRE 18, KURT
SAS - TONY PARKER 19, TIM DUNCAN 16, MICHAEL
May 14 11:47 PM
SAN ANTONIO 45 HALFTIME
May 14 10:56 PM
SAN ANTONIO 22 END, 1ST QTR
May 14 10:23 PM
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