Created Tuesday, 15 May 2007 09:07
Everything was going fine for the San Antonio Spurs. They had built an 11 point lead. They were dictating the pace of the game. Phoenix’s star center, Amare Stoudemire, had just picked up his fouth and fifth fouls in a matter of seconds and was sent to the bench. San Antonio was just minutes away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, and making the outcome of the series almost a foregone conclusion. Then the wheels fell off.
Phoenix, led by a gritty performance by Steve Nash, burst forth with a 12-1 run to come from behind and steal Game 4 on San Antonio’s home court, and even the series at 2-2, as the action heads back to Phoenix. During the run, Nash completed consecutive behind the back assists to Stoudemire, the first to gain the lead, and the second to make it a three point game at 100-97. They wouldn’t need any more.
San Antonio played 3 ½ quarters of championship basketball. Tim Duncan scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Tony Parker lead the team with 23 points and 7 assists. Michael Finley continued to play well, scoring 17 points on 4-10 shooting from behind the arc. Even Brent Barry got into the act, scoring 12 points. Unfortunately for San Antonio, none of those points came in the closing minutes.
In fact, the Spurs finished so poorly, that it could cost them Robert Horry for at least a game. With less than a minute left, as Steve Nash was racing up the court, Horry gave a hard foul which sent Nash crashing into the scorer’s table. After a brief skirmish at midcourt, Horry was ejected, and Phoenix salted the game away on free throws. Some of Phoenix’s bench players were dangerously close to coming onto the court, namely Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, so Phoenix could be short-handed, as well.
One glaring mistake for San Antonio, could have been Coach Popovich’s decision to bench Duncan for a long stretch near the end, because of foul trouble. With Duncan on the bench, Phoenix was able to drive the lane on various occasions, and play at a much faster pace. They also got several offensive rebounds and put backs.
The emotions and high intensity that has marked this series has been upped a notch with Horry’s foul on Nash, and the hard play seems to be here to stay. Neither of the two teams seems to be backing down, and it’s quite doubtful that either will buckle. At the end of the day, the Spurs missed a great opportunity to take full control of the series, and have also lost the home court advantage that they managed to wrest away with their road victory in Game 1.
As the final horn sounded, Tim Duncan’s face told the whole story. Mouth agape; staring off into the distance, he had the expression of a man who just reached into his back pocket for his wallet, only to find that it had been stolen.