Yes, the Suns made a mini-run late. But this game -- and maybe the series -- was over with about five minutes to go with a crucial sequence near the San Antonio basket. Boris Diaw kept dribbling and backing in, dribbling and backing in, all the while failing to exploit a size advantage on the Spurs' Manu Ginobili. (Alas for the Suns, endless dribbling and backing in has become the most identifiable feature of Diaw's game.) Finally, Diaw shoveled it to Shaquille O'Neal, who, perhaps hesitant to shoot for fear that he would be sent to the free throw line, himself shoveled it to Amare' Stoudemire, who was rejected by a helping Ginobili. By then, the 24-second clock had expired.
Three large players and none of them could come up with anything -- it said everything about the Suns' sputtering second-half offense and everything about the havoc Ginobili can create at both ends of the court.
Most of the credit for the Spurs' win will go to Tony Parker (32 points, seven assists), Ginobili (29 points) and Tim Duncan (18 points, 17 rebounds). But the primary doesn't-show-up-in-the-boxscore factor was, as it is so often in this rivalry, Bruce Bowen's work against Suns point guard Steve Nash. The defensive ace didn't guard Nash the whole way -- Parker was on him sometimes -- but Bowen had Nash the majority of the time. His length, physicality and constant movement bother Nash from the time he reaches midcourt and that keeps the Suns from getting into their high pick-and-roll offense quickly and efficiency.
Here's how good the Spurs defense is: In the third quarter, when Phoenix scored only 11 points, San Antonio made the high-scoring Suns look as bad as it made the Cleveland Cavaliers look in last year's Finals.
Perhaps you read about the mysterious red lights that appeared in the northern Phoenix sky just after 8 p.m. on Monday night. The Federal Aviation Administration received so many calls that one spokesman was moved to joke, "It could be aliens coming down to save us from ourselves."
Well, perhaps the Suns had better hope that help from somewhere is on the way. Per their game plan, they kept O'Neal and Stoudemire out of foul trouble and Shaq even made five of six free throws on the three occasions when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich employed the Hack-a-Shaq. But the Spurs owned the second half and seem to have gotten inside the Suns' heads in a big, big way.
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