Spurs storm back, outscore Suns by 11 in fourth

PHOENIX (AP) -- A fourth-quarter rally fueled by layups, dunks

and 3-pointers is to be expected in a game featuring the Phoenix


Yet it was the San Antonio Spurs who did it Sunday in the opener

of the Western Conference finals.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Brent Barry and the Spurs proved that

defense might be their best thing, but not their only thing.

Beating the league's top offense at their own style, San Antonio

used its inside-outside scoring practically to perfection in the

final period to beat Phoenix 121-114.

"You got to score points to beat these guys because you are not

going to hold them to 82," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.

Popovich came into this series saying his team's scoring ability

was underrated, yet there was no choice in the first matchup since

1975 featuring the league's highest-scoring offense (Phoenix's)

against the stingiest defense (San Antonio's).

The Spurs began making their case by scoring 30 points in the

first quarter and 55 by halftime. Then came their amazing closing


San Antonio hit 16 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and scored

43 points, its most in any period all season. To really appreciate

that total, consider that Phoenix's best quarter all year was 44 --

and the Suns scored more points than any team in the last 10 years.

"That's not the kind of quarter that we would expect in a game

like this, but we'll take it," said Duncan, who soaked his aching

left ankle in a whirlpool at halftime and scored 11 of his 28 in

the fourth.

Robert Horry set the tone by hitting a 3-pointer just 14 seconds

in. With Duncan and Parker working the lane, San Antonio tied it

within minutes and went ahead for good on a jumper by Barry that

made it 94-92. He hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 106-98 with

4:08 remaining.

Playing 1½ days after closing out Dallas in an overtime thriller

on the road, the Suns already had turned an 11-point deficit into

an 8-point lead in the third quarter. They didn't have another

comeback left. The Spurs led by at least six the rest of the way,

disappointing the locals who were attending their first conference

finals game since 1993.

"We kind of let fatigue affect us mentally," said Phoenix

point guard Steve Nash. "We lost our fight for enough stretches to

lose the game."

Barry scored 13 of his 21 in the fourth quarter. He made 8-of-12

shots, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.

"That's what I'm here to do," he said.

Parker scored 29 points, Manu Ginobili added 20 points, six

rebounds and five assists and Bruce Bowen scored just two, but made

up for it by holding Shawn Marion to three points one game after he

scored 38.

Nash finished with 13 assists, many setting up Amare

Stoudemire's 41 points. During the season, Stoudemire averaged 38.7

against the Spurs, the most ever by one player.

With the victory, the Spurs claimed home-court advantage, which

could be significant since they're the league's best at home this

season. Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

"We're happy to get this one, but we're not overly ecstatic,"

Duncan said. "We want to get the next one and really hurt them


San Antonio's poise down the stretch is befitting a team that's

won two of the last six titles. The only playoff experience for

most of the Suns is the 10 games they'd played over the last two


"They beat us in all aspects," said Phoenix's Jim Jackson, who

scored 20 points. "That's what ex-champions do. They know how to

do it. No excuses. They just came in here and flat out beat us."

The Spurs are 3-1 against Phoenix this season, with their only

loss coming in a game that Duncan and Ginobili missed with

injuries. San Antonio also improved to 34-2 when scoring at least

100; they're 6-0 this postseason when doing it and 3-2 when they


The best part is that the Spurs are scoring more while still

able to play the tenacious defense that's helped them hold foes to

the lowest scoring average each of the last two seasons.

Phoenix missed 10 straight shots in the first quarter and scored

just 20 in the period, matching a postseason low set way back in

the second quarter of Game 1 in the first round.

The Suns were down six at halftime, but rallied to lead by six

midway through the third quarter. After San Antonio tied it at 74,

Phoenix scored eight in a row for its biggest lead of the game. The

Suns seemed ready to crack things open as the spurt included

Marion's first basket and Richardson's first 3-pointer.

It ended up being Marion's only basket and Richardson's only


The Suns tried shaking things up by using three big men more

than ever, going with seven-footer Steven Hunter on the front line

alongside Stoudemire, moving Marion to small forward and going with

two guards.

Hunter had nine points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes,

matching his most of the season, but now coach Mike D'Antoni is

going to have to find another wrinkle to try getting even this

series. The preferred change would be getting back guard Joe

Johnson from an eye injury, although it's not likely to happen

before Game 3.

Game notes
San Antonio scored 43 points in a playoff quarter once

before, against Denver in 1983. ... It wasn't the most ever allowed

by Phoenix. The 1985 Lakers scored 45. ... Spurs F Glenn Robinson

missed the game because of a death in his family. He also may miss

Game 2. ... Ginboli's banked-in buzzer-beater at the end of the

first quarter was shot from beyond midcourt, between the C and A in

the word "America" painted on the floor. ... San Antonio opened a

playoff series on the road for just the second time in seven years.

The other was the 2002 conference finals, which they lost in five

games against the Lakers.