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Spurs storm back, outscore Suns by 11 in fourth

PHOENIX (AP) -- A fourth-quarter rally fueled by layups, dunks
and 3-pointers is to be expected in a game featuring the Phoenix
Suns.

Yet it was the San Antonio Spurs who did it Sunday in the opener
of the Western Conference finals.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Brent Barry and the Spurs proved that
defense might be their best thing, but not their only thing.
Beating the league's top offense at their own style, San Antonio
used its inside-outside scoring practically to perfection in the
final period to beat Phoenix 121-114.

"You got to score points to beat these guys because you are not
going to hold them to 82," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.

Popovich came into this series saying his team's scoring ability
was underrated, yet there was no choice in the first matchup since
1975 featuring the league's highest-scoring offense (Phoenix's)
against the stingiest defense (San Antonio's).

The Spurs began making their case by scoring 30 points in the
first quarter and 55 by halftime. Then came their amazing closing
argument.

San Antonio hit 16 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and scored
43 points, its most in any period all season. To really appreciate
that total, consider that Phoenix's best quarter all year was 44 --
and the Suns scored more points than any team in the last 10 years.

"That's not the kind of quarter that we would expect in a game
like this, but we'll take it," said Duncan, who soaked his aching
left ankle in a whirlpool at halftime and scored 11 of his 28 in
the fourth.

Robert Horry set the tone by hitting a 3-pointer just 14 seconds
in. With Duncan and Parker working the lane, San Antonio tied it
within minutes and went ahead for good on a jumper by Barry that
made it 94-92. He hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 106-98 with
4:08 remaining.

Playing 1½ days after closing out Dallas in an overtime thriller
on the road, the Suns already had turned an 11-point deficit into
an 8-point lead in the third quarter. They didn't have another
comeback left. The Spurs led by at least six the rest of the way,
disappointing the locals who were attending their first conference
finals game since 1993.

"We kind of let fatigue affect us mentally," said Phoenix
point guard Steve Nash. "We lost our fight for enough stretches to
lose the game."

Barry scored 13 of his 21 in the fourth quarter. He made 8-of-12
shots, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.

"That's what I'm here to do," he said.

Parker scored 29 points, Manu Ginobili added 20 points, six
rebounds and five assists and Bruce Bowen scored just two, but made
up for it by holding Shawn Marion to three points one game after he
scored 38.

Nash finished with 13 assists, many setting up Amare
Stoudemire's 41 points. During the season, Stoudemire averaged 38.7
against the Spurs, the most ever by one player.

With the victory, the Spurs claimed home-court advantage, which
could be significant since they're the league's best at home this
season. Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

"We're happy to get this one, but we're not overly ecstatic,"
Duncan said. "We want to get the next one and really hurt them
here."

San Antonio's poise down the stretch is befitting a team that's
won two of the last six titles. The only playoff experience for
most of the Suns is the 10 games they'd played over the last two
rounds.

"They beat us in all aspects," said Phoenix's Jim Jackson, who
scored 20 points. "That's what ex-champions do. They know how to
do it. No excuses. They just came in here and flat out beat us."

The Spurs are 3-1 against Phoenix this season, with their only
loss coming in a game that Duncan and Ginobili missed with
injuries. San Antonio also improved to 34-2 when scoring at least
100; they're 6-0 this postseason when doing it and 3-2 when they
don't.

The best part is that the Spurs are scoring more while still
able to play the tenacious defense that's helped them hold foes to
the lowest scoring average each of the last two seasons.

Phoenix missed 10 straight shots in the first quarter and scored
just 20 in the period, matching a postseason low set way back in
the second quarter of Game 1 in the first round.

The Suns were down six at halftime, but rallied to lead by six
midway through the third quarter. After San Antonio tied it at 74,
Phoenix scored eight in a row for its biggest lead of the game. The
Suns seemed ready to crack things open as the spurt included
Marion's first basket and Richardson's first 3-pointer.

It ended up being Marion's only basket and Richardson's only
3-pointer.

The Suns tried shaking things up by using three big men more
than ever, going with seven-footer Steven Hunter on the front line
alongside Stoudemire, moving Marion to small forward and going with
two guards.

Hunter had nine points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes,
matching his most of the season, but now coach Mike D'Antoni is
going to have to find another wrinkle to try getting even this
series. The preferred change would be getting back guard Joe
Johnson from an eye injury, although it's not likely to happen
before Game 3.

Game notes
San Antonio scored 43 points in a playoff quarter once
before, against Denver in 1983. ... It wasn't the most ever allowed
by Phoenix. The 1985 Lakers scored 45. ... Spurs F Glenn Robinson
missed the game because of a death in his family. He also may miss
Game 2. ... Ginboli's banked-in buzzer-beater at the end of the
first quarter was shot from beyond midcourt, between the C and A in
the word "America" painted on the floor. ... San Antonio opened a
playoff series on the road for just the second time in seven years.
The other was the 2002 conference finals, which they lost in five
games against the Lakers.