<
>

Marion, Nash shine in fourth as Suns topple Spurs

PHOENIX (AP) -- This season's Phoenix Suns can play rough. They
proved it Saturday night against the defending NBA champs.

Shawn Marion and Steve Nash triggered a fourth-quarter surge
that lifted the Suns over San Antonio 91-86, snapping the Spurs'
five-game winning streak in a matchup of division leaders.

Marion scored 11 in the fourth quarter to finish with 20 points
and 10 rebounds. Nash scored 10 in the fourth and had 22 points and
10 assists in the Suns' seventh victory in eight games. The lone
loss in the stretch was in triple overtime to the Knicks in New
York on Monday night.

Marion and Nash agreed that last year's run-and-gun Suns,
despite their 62 victories, couldn't have won a game like this one.

"We're not going to win too many games last year with our
defense. We certainly won with our defense tonight," Nash said.
"It's great. It gives you a new source of pride."

Boris Diaw also scored 18 for Phoenix, which beat San Antonio
for only the second time in their last nine regular season
meetings.

Tim Duncan had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs. Manu
Ginobili scored 19, Tony Parker 18 and Robert Horry 15 for the
defending NBA champs.

The game was played at the Spurs' preferred pace except for a
brief time that proved to be the difference.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Horry gave San Antonio its only lead
of the second half, 74-72, with 4:48 to play. Phoenix responded
with a decisive 9-1 surge. Nash sank the Suns' first 3-pointer of
the night, Horry missed a 3 and James Jones made a 20-footer to put
Phoenix ahead 77-74 with 3:38 to play.

"It was a great test," Duncan said. "I know they have been
playing well. I thought we put a good performance together and just
made too many mistakes down the stretch."

Duncan made one of two free throws, then Marion scored twice,
the second on a breakaway stuff to give Phoenix an 81-75 lead with
2:45 left.

Nash's 3-pointer with 2:19 to go made it 84-77. Ginobili sank a
3-pointer to cut the lead to 84-80, but Raja Bell followed with a
22-footer and it was 86-80 with 1:09 to play.

Nash, a 95 percent free throw shooter, missed two with 39
seconds to left and Nick Van Exel scored to cut the lead to 88-86,
but Nash sealed it with two free throws with 12 seconds to go.

"We did a great job defensively in a lot of ways," Spurs coach
Gregg Popovich said. "I'm very pleased with the defense overall,
but very disappointed in the mental mistakes the last five minutes
of the game."

The Suns were just 2-for-6 on 3-pointers after going 13-for-26
against Miami the previous night.

"They did a heck of a job on our 3-point shooting," Phoenix
coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You know, we gutted it out. I didn't
think it was pretty like last night, but in another sense
basketball-wise it was good, to win one when we weren't clicking on
offense."

Phoenix owes its newfound toughness to the arrival of Bell and
Kurt Thomas.

"Raja and Kurt are always there for us, physically and
mentally," Nash said. "They always make it difficult for the
other team and always give us a chance to win."

Phoenix took a 42-40 lead to the break after a foul-filled first
half. The Spurs shot 36 percent and the Suns 42 percent.

D'Antoni drew a technical during a 5-0 San Antonio spurt that
tied it at 53 on Duncan's hook shot with 4:35 to play in the third
quarter. But the Spurs turned it over on their next two possessions
and Phoenix scored the next six, going up 59-53 on Marion's driving
bank shot 3:20 from the end of the period.

The Suns led 65-60 going into the fourth after Bell's inside
basket on a slick pass from Diaw with 24 seconds to go in the
third.

Game notes
The Suns went from a 47-point first quarter against Miami
on Friday night to a 42-point first half against the Spurs. ... The
Spurs have held their last nine opponents under 96 points. ...
Phoenix had a string of nine consecutive games of at least 100
points. ... The Suns had three 24-second shot violations in the
third quarter.