for this game

Suns set in San Antonio once again

Apr 30, 2008 - 6:22 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Tony Parker scored 31 points to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 92-87 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in Game Five of their Western Conference first-round series.

With the win, the Spurs eliminated the Suns, 4-1, and advance to face the New Orleans Hornets in the Western Conference semifinals.

Tim Duncan added 29 points and 17 rebounds for San Antonio, which has eliminated Phoenix from the playoffs in two straight postseasons.

After Parker hit a free throw to give the Spurs an 86-85 edge late in the game, the Suns turned the ball over on two straight possessions. Parker made them pay, hitting a 16-foot jumper with 29 seconds left.

"He had a little trouble knocking down his shot tonight, but he made a monster shot when it mattered," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

The Suns went straight to Boris Diaw, who scored an easy two to keep the pressure on the Spurs. Manu Ginobili made only one of his free throws, but the Suns committed another costly turnover, when the inbounds pass was deflected off Steve Nash's leg out of bounds.

Ginobili was fouled again, this time hitting both, and the Spurs led 91-87. Phoenix couldn't hit a 3-pointer, and the Spurs sealed the win with the rebound.

"They were terrific, and they got the best of us," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We played as hard as we could play, but we just couldn't get it done."

Nash was pestered by the Spurs defense all night, finishing with just 11 points and three assists.

"It was back and forth the entire game, but, luckily enough, our defense stepped up for us and made some big plays," Duncan said. "Defense is what turned the game around for us."

Bruce Bowen agreed.

"We wouldn't have the championship banners hanging if we didn't play on the other side of the floor," he said. "That defense has to be there for you night in and night out."

Diaw, who started in place of the injured Grant Hill, continued to be a tough matchup down low for San Antonio. He scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half.

Parker set the tone early, though, scoring 13 points in the first quarter to give San Antonio a 30-26 lead heading into the second.

Leandro Barbosa gave the Suns a 36-34 lead, their first of the game, after his corner 3-pointer with 8:11 remaining in the second.

But Ime Udoka scored five straight to give the Spurs a 45-43 lead with 3:50 left in the first half.

The Suns were held to just two points over the last 4:31 of the first half. The Spurs were down 43-40, but closed out the quarter on a 14-2 run.

Parker converted a 3-point play after being fouled by Brian Skinner on a layup with 4.9 seconds left in the second quarter for a 54-45 halftime lead.

The Suns showed signs of life in the third, where they outscored the Spurs 27-15.

Nash hit a pair of free throws to tie the game, 60-60, with 4:18 left in the third. Then, Raja Bell hit a leaning shot off the glass to regain the lead for Phoenix.

Bell hit a 3-pointer later in the quarter for a 65-62 Suns lead, and a sloppy turnover by the Spurs led to an easy Diaw dunk. Bell scored 11 of his points in the third quarter for Phoenix, which erased a nine-point halftime deficit en route to a 72-69 lead heading into the fourth.

Parker stayed aggressive, though. He drove and then wrapped a pass around Bell for an easy Duncan layup, giving the Spurs a 77-76 lead with 6:43 remaining.

With the game tied, 79-79, Duncan hit a floater in the paint for the Spurs lead. Then, with the Spurs clinging to an 81-80 lead, Nash hit a step-back 16-footer to put Phoenix up with 3:10 left, but it wasn't enough for the Suns, who stumbled late.

"We had to treat the fourth quarter like a game seven," Parker said. 'We played better in the fourth quarter and got the stops that we needed."

Bell was not surprised with his team's fourth-quarter troubles.

"The fourth quarter has plagued us the entire series," he said. "The Spurs were the better team tonight because they do all the little things The Spurs deserve to keep playing, and we will go home."

Amare Stoudemire added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix.