Spurs Clinch Series, Jazz up Next
Written by Randy Watson
The Spurs dominated the Suns in the second half of Game 6, to close out the series and move to the Western Conference finals where they will face the Utah Jazz. San Antonio, boosted by terrific play inside and outside, used a huge third quarter spurt to go up by as many as 20 points, on the way to the victory.
San Antonio's outside threats, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, both had easily their best games of the series, with Ginobili scoring 33 points on 4-7 shooting from behind the 3-point arc, and Parker scoring 30 points, many baskets coming on layups as he darted, dashed, and destroyed the Suns defense. Tim Duncan's inside presence on both ends of the court was enough to negate a brilliant performance by Amare Stoudemire. Duncan had 24 points and 13 rebounds, and set a franchise record with 9 blocks in the game.
Stoudemire led all scorers with 38 points and 12 rebounds, but most came when the game was all but decided. Phoenix did mount a 4th quarter comeback, led by Stoudemire and Nash (15 4th quarter points), managing to cut the 20 point lead down to 5, but with only 17 second left, San Antonio's free throw shooting put the game away, and the San Antonio crowd was left to celebrate.
San Antonio will be back to full strength against the Jazz, as Robert Horry sat out the second game of his two game suspension.
The series certainly did not lack for drama or excitement, with the verbal barbs flying almost as often as the shots. In Game 1, Steve Nash received a nasty cut on his nose, which required 6 stitches after the game. In Game 3, Nash received a knee to the groin from Bowen, and Ginobili, a black eye. Stoudemire then upped the ante, calling the Spurs a dirty team. Then, of course, came the Horry Nash incident, which affected both teams, and lead to 3 players being suspended. Horry later stated that Nash had been acting when Horry fouled him.
By all accounts, the series against the Jazz shouldn't prove to be much different, with Utah and San Antonio both able and willing to play a physical, old-school style, and both teams emphasizing defense.
Game 1 of the Western Conference finals is Sunday in San Antonio.