PHOENIX (AP) -- Phoenix is back in the playoffs, and probably
headed for a first-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, a team
the Suns have given fits all season.
Sunday night was no exception.
Shawn Marion scored 24 points and Stephon Marbury had 23 points
and 10 assists as the Suns snapped the Spurs' 11-game winning
streak and clinched the West's final playoff berth 92-85.
Joe Johnson scored 20, 11 in the third quarter, and had four
steals as the Suns became the only team to beat the Spurs three
times this season.
"It is a concern,'' Tim Duncan said. "They've given us trouble
all season long, and I have no doubt they'll give us trouble in the
Penny Hardaway and Amare Stoudemire each added 10 points.
Hardaway sank two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Stoudemire
had two big plays in the final minutes.
No one was more thrilled than Marbury, who after his best NBA
season is in the playoffs for the first time since 1998, his second
year as a pro.
"It means everything to me,'' Marbury said. "I'm just elated
right now. I'm probably the happiest person on this earth right
Phoenix shot 52 percent to win its fourth in a row and eighth in
its last 10.
San Antonio still needs a victory or a Dallas loss to clinch
home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. That would mean a
first-round matchup against Phoenix. The Spurs are at Utah Monday
night, then finish their regular-season at home against Dallas on
Malik Rose scored 18 for the Spurs, who had won nine road games
in a row, and 17 of 18. Their only road loss since Jan. 27 was at
Dallas on Feb. 20.
Duncan, the object of aggressive double-teams all night, managed
just 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting in 38 minutes.
"That was their game plan,'' he said. "They came at me hard,
and did a great job of rotating. We got the ball out of there. We
just didn't hit some shots.''
Emanuel Ginobili was the only other San Antonio player in double
figures with 16 points.
"Phoenix did a really great job tonight, being physical, really
active defensively,'' San Antonio coach Greg Popovich said. "They
did a wonderful job in that regard. I think that was really the
difference in the game.''
Stoudemire's rebound basket over Duncan put Phoenix up 88-81
with 2:19 to play. Duncan made two free throws, then Speedy Claxton
hit the first of two to cut the lead to 88-84 with 52.4 seconds
left. Rose got the rebound on the missed free throw, but Stoudemire
blocked Ginobili's 3-point try.
Marbury, who averaged 35.7 points and 8.3 assists in the three
previous games against San Antonio, sank two free throws with 25.6
seconds to go to make it 90-84. Stoudemire added two more from the
line to wrap things up.
The quick Suns created mismatches with a small lineup.
"It's just a tough matchup for them,'' Phoenix coach Frank
Johnson said. "We've got shooters in the corners, and sometimes
they'll have Robinson or Duncan on Marion. That's not a matchup.''
Trailing 43-38 at the break, San Antonio went on a 10-2 run to
start the second half to go up 48-45 on Bruce Bowen's breakaway
stuff with 9:14 to go in the third quarter.
Joe Johnson scored six in a 7-0 spurt that gave Phoenix a 62-55
lead with 2:25 to go in the third. The other point came on Marion's
free throw after Stephen Jackson was called for a technical.
Ginobili sank a 3-pointer as Jake Voskuhl fouled Duncan inside.
Duncan made the free throw for a four-point play that cut the Suns'
lead to 64-62 with 56.8 seconds left in the quarter. But the Spurs
committed two turnovers and Phoenix scored the last six of the
third, four by Marbury, to go up 70-62 entering the fourth quarter.
Marbury's driving layup put Phoenix up 72-62 on the opening
possession of the final period.
The Spurs committed 22 turnovers and the Suns 20.
Before the game, Bo Outlaw -- who turned 32 Sunday --
received the first Dan Majerle Hustle Award, presented to the
Phoenix player who most exemplifies the hustle and determination
Majerle displayed. ... Outlaw played just 11 minutes after sitting
out Friday night's win over Golden State with a bruised jaw and cut
cheek, the result of an elbow from Denver's Raef LaFrentz last
Wednesday. ... Phoenix had a 13-year playoff run snapped last