Updated: May 8, 2007, 11:18 AM ET

Suns' woes include Nash gash

PHOENIX -- They went through a box full of gauze pads, Band-Aids and Steri-Strips on the bench.

They applied a highly flammable liquid adhesive called Collodion.

They might have even thrown some "gun-powder stuff" at Steve Nash's sliced-open nose, according to Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni.

Playoff Schedule
EAST SEMIFINALS
Detroit 1, Chicago 0
Game 2: Mon., 8 ET, at DET

Cleveland 1, New Jersey 0
Game 2: Tues., 8 ET, at CLE

WEST SEMIFINALS
San Antonio 1, Phoenix 0
Game 2: Tues., 10:30 ET, at PHX

Warriors vs. Jazz
Game 1: Mon., 10:30 ET, at UTAH

The full playoff schedule

"They tried everything," D'Antoni said.

You can certainly understand why.

The Phoenix Suns were having enough trouble on an unexpectedly bloody Sunday, long before this clash of Western Conference titans was interrupted by a violent clash of heads. Even with Nash on the floor, Phoenix never a real whiff of victory in the second half.

The Suns, furthermore, needed a good start in their second-round showdown with San Antonio much more than Spurs did, given their well-chronicled struggles against the three-time champs.

So you can imagine how painful it was for the home team to have its best player willing to play on -- but not allowed to -- in the deciding moments of a 111-106 defeat.

"Pretty bad timing," Nash would say later, having received six postgame stitches.

"But that's life."

Life, on this afternoon, ran Nash nose-first into Tony Parker's forehead with just under three minutes to go. Crunch time, indeed.

At first glance, Parker actually appeared to take the worst of the head-on collision, with Nash so concerned that he leaned down to check on the fallen Spur, reaching to Parker with his right hand while trying to keep blood from spurting on the floor with his left.

Parker, though, came away with a mere welt and comfortably made it to the finish of a clutch 32-point, eight-assist performance, unaffected by his six turnovers or the crash or even the long stretches he was guarded by the long-limbed Shawn Marion.

"I really don't know," Parker said when asked how he emerged from the collision unbloodied. "I thought for sure it was me."

Nash?

Suns athletic trainer Aaron Nelson says that the two-time MVP would have been better off had he simply broken his nose.

"Because then," Nelson said, "I could have just plugged it."

But with just 2:53 to play and San Antonio up 100-99, there wasn't enough time to send Nash to the locker room to get him stitched up. The Suns' only option was hoping that their frantic attempts to bandage him up would stem the blood flow and enable their leader to pass the NBA's infectious-control standards.

Nash was initially cleared by the referees to play for nearly two minutes and ignored the red state of his nose to sink a game-tying triple with 2:23 to play that made it 102-102, followed by a layup that pulled Phoenix within 106-104 and gave him a team-high 31 points.

But he missed a 3-pointer between those big buckets and was forced to return to the bench with 54.8 seconds left, largely because the oozing cut was not only deep and wide but vertical as opposed to a more conventional (horizontal) cut across the bridge of Nash's nose.

If you were unsure while watching live during the 25-plus minutes this drama played out in real time, or curious after seeing a TV clip of a writhing Nash pouring water on his eyes, he was reacting to the fumes from the Collodion.

"Obviously I wanted to be out there and tried numerous times to get out there," Nash said. "But, for whatever reason, this happened to me -- to us -- today, and we'll just hope we don't have any other calamities at the end of games."

Of course, from a Phoenix perspective, Sunday's list of calamities only ends with the Nash incident.

The Suns were dominated on the boards (49-35), trailed for most of the second half, wasted a rare 11-point burst in the fourth quarter from Marion, watched Amare Stoudemire (20 points, 18 boards) find foul trouble and a sharper Tim Duncan (33 points, 16 boards) in Round 1 of their pivotal duel and couldn't win a game in the 100s, which is supposed to be their kind of game.

The only real momentum they ever had was at the end of the first half. With the Suns up 50-44 with 1:21 remaining and seemingly headed the other way on a fast break, Stoudemire was instead hit with his third foul for taking down Duncan in the chase for a rebound, even though replays indicated that Duncan initiated the contact.

That forced Stoudemire to the bench after what might have been the best half of post defense he's ever played, considering who he was guarding. San Antonio responded by slicing the Suns' biggest lead of the afternoon to 53-51 by intermission.

In perhaps the most telling indication of how desperate Phoenix's coaches were to have this win and get a foothold in this series, with a record of 4-11 in the Nash Era against the Spurs coming in, D'Antoni and his staff were still incensed when they returned from intermission.

D'Antoni promptly resumed the debate with referees Bob Delaney and Mark Wunderlich -- Wunderlich called the original foul on Stoudemire -- and Suns assistant coach Marc Iavaroni was hit with a technical foul moments before the start of the third quarter for chiming in with his view.

Which cut the Suns' lead to 53-52 heading into the second half when Michael Finley made the ensuing free throw.

Throw in another unexpected trip to the line for Finley after a disputed call on Leandro Barbosa with 26.7 seconds to go -- for an away-from-the-play foul on Parker -- and then the Nash gash and you can understand why D'Antoni said, "It didn't seem like it was our night."

Not that Nash was expecting or looking for sympathy. His face is the last thing Nash sounds concerned about.

To the contrary, his contention after leaving the treatment room was that the Suns weren't nearly desperate enough out there.

"We have to be a little hungrier," Nash said, hitting on a theme he's mentioned often this season. "I think some of us just didn't have the fire it takes to beat a championship team.

"How many times can you talk about it? We just have to have a bigger heart and continue to push through these invisible barriers that seem to pop up. I don't know what they are, but sometimes we just don't play as hard as we should."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

• Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: May 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


Red Menace

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
While Steve Nash missed only 45 seconds of game time, his fight to stay on the court after suffering a nasty cut on his nose lasted 26 suspenseful minutes in real time until the final buzzer sent him and the Suns away with a 111-106 Game 1 loss to the Spurs.


Swat Team

CLEVELAND -- In the heat of the fourth quarter on Sunday afternoon, while all eyes were on some important LeBron James free throws, Cavs veteran point guard Eric Snow came off the bench and called not-so-veteran guard Sasha Pavlovic over for an impromptu conference.

Cavs coach Mike Brown moved out of the way so Snow could stand in the coach's box in his warmups and give Pavlovic an on-the-fly pep talk/tutorial as James split the pair.

The message?

"Oh, you'll have to ask Sasha about that," Snow said.

"He just told me how to defend Vince Carter," said the introverted Pavlovic.

Oh, is that all?

Whether it was the in-game chalk talk that made the difference or not, Pavlovic made two big defensive plays down the stretch in the Cavs' 81-77 Game 1 victory over the Nets.

Up to that point, Carter had been toying with Pavlovic a little in the fourth.

Twice he'd drawn blocking fouls on Pavlovic and then demonstratively placed the ball on the floor at Pavlovic's feet.

It was vintage Carter, who was trying to get the Nets into the bonus and get himself to the foul line. That made sense, as he could do little else offensively. He led the Nets with 21 points, but was just 7-of-23 shooting on the afternoon.

But after the Snow chat there were no more fouls on Pavlovic, just big plays.

He rejected Carter on a drive to the basket, which kicked off a Cavs fastbreak. Then he killed a Nets break with the defining highlight of the afternoon, catching Jason Kidd from behind on a layup attempt just as Kidd was about to cut the Cavs lead to two points with 1:45 left.

Pavlovic swatted the ball into the stands and the Cavs ended up getting a stop on the possession to preserve their lead.

Pavlovic established a career playoff high with 15 points in the win, but it was his career playoff high three blocks and defense on Carter that were perhaps more important. He made it hard for Carter to shoot over his 6-foot-7 frame, and the Nets star went 0-of-5 from the floor in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Carter's superstar counterpart, James, scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth to carry the Cavs to the series lead. James, who had 11 rebounds and seven assists, also had a key block of his own on Bostjan Nachbar with eight seconds left to assure victory.

Overall, the Cavs had nine blocks and eight steals and held the Nets to just 37 percent shooting in the defensive-based win.

"If you commit to the defensive side of the floor, you're going to give yourself a chance to win every game," said Cavs coach Mike Brown, whose team is allowing just 40 percent shooting so far in the postseason. "We have to keep hanging our hard hats on that end of the court."

-- Brian Windhorst from Quicken Loans Arena



Scouts Inc. Breakdown

David Thorpe of Scouts Inc. has the forecast for Game 2 of the Chicago-Detroit series. Here's an excerpt:

In general, the Bulls played "too fast" while the Pistons played "just right." If the Bulls focus on making easy plays in Game 2, their execution will improve and their turnovers will decrease.

Look for Detroit to continue to mix in zone and man looks, helping to throw the Bulls off balance.

If Chicago can regain the attitude and edge it had in playing Miami, then it can steal Game 2. Finding Deng more often when the team is mired in a shooting slump would help, too -- he and Kirk Hinrich both have their shooting stroke intact.

They must do a better job of clearing Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber out of the paint after a shot so that they cannot tip out misses to teammates on the perimeter.

Detroit has a strong focus, but has been susceptible in previous years to casual play when they feel they are the better team in a series. That would be a mistake in this series, as Chicago is capable of beating the Pistons.

See the full Scouts Inc. prediction for Bulls-Pistons Game 2


Spurs Swipe Suns' Home-Court Advantage

Duncan: 33 points, 16 boards, Game 1 win


Building Blocks

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
For the Cavs, the plays of the game were blocked shots by Sasha Pavlovic (top) on the Nets' Jason Kidd with 1:45 remaining and by LeBron James on Bostjan Nachbar with nine seconds remaining. The Cavs held on to win Game 1, 81-77. See Box 3 for more.




Extreme Behavior

Sunday's Best
Spurs guard Tony Parker: He wasn't perfect (six turnovers), but he was the X-factor Phoenix couldn't account for, playing Steve Nash to a draw with 32 points, eight dimes and two steals, including the one that led to Nash's gash.


Sunday's Worst
Nets guard Jason Kidd: He almost had another triple double, so why the thumbs down? Because the Nets' leader shot 2-for-11, had a layup blocked in the final two minutes and might have been outplayed by Cavs point guard Larry Hughes.

Quote of the Day:
"When you go head against nose, unless it's me ... you have a lot of chances to win."
-- Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, explaining why Tony Parker survived his head-on collision with Steve Nash and poking fun at Manu's most famous facial feature in the process.

Complete line score for every player

-- Royce Webb



Jumpin' Jazz

John Hollinger on just how the Jazz earned a spot in Round 2:

I don't know if I accurately conveyed on Saturday night just what an impressive game the Jazz played to win Game 7, but the let's go ahead and get that out of the way.

I thought Houston actually played well enough to win on most nights, against most teams.

Utah just took it from them.

First, a little background.

I asked Jerry Sloan before the game about why it had been such a defensive series -- no team broke the century mark until Utah did in Game 7.

Sloan told me that one factor was Houston's size inside, which made it difficult for his team to convert the close-range shots that are the staple of the Jazz's motion offense.

It turns out they had a novel solution to that problem in Game 7 -- they started raining jumpers.

I didn't look at a shot chart from the game until I saw it in the Houston Chronicle on my flight on Sunday morning, but when I did it practically jumped off the page.

I was aware that Utah was making a lot of jumpers, especially in the first quarter, but I had no idea how big the disparity was.

See the full John Hollinger blog entry



Small Change
A strong low-post center is the key to winning in the playoffs, right?

As Henry Abbott points out at TrueHoop, you couldn't prove it this year.

Here's an excerpt from his latest blog post on this season's playoffs:

• Dwight Howard lost.

• Shaquille O'Neal lost.

• Yao Ming lost.

• Golden State won with no bigs.

• Utah won with two power forwards -- one a great 3-point shooter and the other a multi-skilled scorer.

• The Nets won with a center who averaged three points a game.

• Phoenix won with no center on the roster.

• The Spurs won with the best power forward in history.

• The Bulls won with a center who can't score and is 6-9.

• The Pistons won with an aged power forward, and another power forward who is a 3-point shooter.

• Cleveland won with a legitimate center -- but one who is best as a face-up guy.

See the full TrueHoop blog post



Got Skiles
Chris Sheridan blogs from Detroit after the Pistons' Game 1 demolition of the Bulls:

Chicago coach Scott Skiles was not obsessing over the loss either, noting that the Bulls have typically been resilient after their missteps, most recently when they followed their season-ending loss at New Jersey, which cost them the No. 2 seed, with four straight victories over the Miami Heat.

"We always respond. That's our history. That's what we do.

"The issue is, if we respond, can we beat them if they're playing at that high of a level again?" Skiles asked.

"Even if we had the whole day off today, I know we'd come out and play better tomorrow.

"The question, though, is whether better is good enough. We're playing a great team here, and so we have to be exceptional, and not just better than we were."

See Sheridan's full blog entry

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