Fast Breaks: Spurs-Suns
By Arash Markazi
 
Game 1 Leaders
Spurs lead series 3-1 PointsReboundsAssists
(3)
105 86
 
Bell
27
O'Neal
12
Diaw
8
AP
Raja Bell, who after being a non-factor in Games 2 and 3 (13 points combined), gave the Suns the offensive spark they had been missing Sunday, scoring a game-high 27 points, including 21 in the first half. Bell (pictured) set the tone early, hitting the Suns' first three baskets in a scintillating first quarter that saw the Suns, who are 12-0 this season when Bell scores 20 or more points, take a 34-13 lead that it would hold comfortably throughout the game. Whenever the Spurs made a run, it was Bell who answered with a three-point basket (he was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc) or a fast break play to stop it. "He was being aggressive on both ends of the floor and that's not easy to have that kind of intensity," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. "Raja's a warrior. He always has been."

• After Tony Parker torched the Suns for a career-high 41 points and 12 assists in Game 3, Boris Diaw was given the unenviable task of defending his French national teammate. Diaw, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, was able to stay with Parker and prevented him from strolling to the basket off pick-and-rolls as he did so effectively in Game 3. "I tried to stay close to him the whole time because he mostly hurt us with the pick and roll so I tried to use my length to bother him," said Diaw, who has played with Parker since they were teenagers. "I've seen him play a lot and I've played with him so I know when he wants to go to his floater or when he's looking for a jump shot or when he's looking to pass." D'Antoni had his own theory on Diaw's effectiveness against Parker. "They're both French," he said. "I'm sure they've had some croissants together."

• Coming into Game 3 the Spurs' Big Three of Parker, Tim Duncan and Tim Duncan were averaging 84.3 points per game in the series, a significant upgrade from the 57.6 points they had been averaging this season. The Suns, however, were able to slow down the trio, which combined for 42 points Sunday and sat out for much of the fourth quarter.

Shaquille O'Neal, at least for one day, silenced his critics. "The Big Cactus" scored 14 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and hit 6 of 10 free throws in a little over 23 minutes of action. It was the ideal stat line that the Suns had envisioned and hoped for from O'Neal when they acquired him in February.

• D'Antoni got ejected after collecting two technicals with 3:58 left in the game. After Diaw and the Robert Horry became entangled, D'Antoni said to referee Scott Foster, "Now if that happens, which one do you figure held on to the other and which one do you figure flopped?" "That's enough," Foster told him. "That's the first thing I said the whole game," said D'Antoni, at which point Foster T-ed him. Then D'Antoni said, "I have your evaluation sheet on my desk right now." Referee David Jones heard that remark, hit D'Antoni with another T and tossed him.

 

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