Phoenix (45-19) at San Antonio (50-14)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: San Antonio, TX
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Fri Mar 17, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Last week’s matchup between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs showed just how important their All-Star point guards are. Maybe the rematch will be a bit better with both of them playing.

The Suns will have Steve Nash available this time to take on Tony Parker and the Spurs in the second meeting in nine days between two of the Western Conference’s top teams.

With Nash sidelined by a sprained ankle, Phoenix never led after the opening minute and was routed 117-93 by San Antonio on March 9. The Suns had an 11-game winning streak snapped and were held below 100 points for the first time in 23 games as their trademark perimeter game was shut down, making just 3-of-13 from 3-point range.

“This is one of those games where you don’t even want to play the doggone thing,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after his team handed Phoenix its first home loss in more than a month.

“Their guys aren’t there and the win doesn’t really show what you can do against a good team.”

Parker, though, showed what he can do if the Suns continue to give him open looks. He scored 29 points in just 28 minutes.

“I know every time I play Phoenix they’re going to let me shoot on the outside, and I just try to make them pay,” said Parker, who has averaged 22.0 points in the last nine meetings—five in last year’s conference finals.

San Antonio won that series 4-1, and has won two of three matchups this season. A victory Friday will give the Spurs the season series for the third straight time.

Parker had 20 points and 11 assists on Tuesday to lead San Antonio to a 96-81 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

The Spurs are not expecting to have such an easy time in this game, facing a run-and-gun Suns team which averages a league-high 108.4 points per game.

“We need to get some rest over the next couple of days to get ready for Phoenix on Friday,” said Brent Barry, who tied a season high with 16 points Tuesday.

The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Spurs and got them to 50 wins faster than any other season in franchise history. However, they enter this matchup a half-game behind Dallas for the best record in the West.

Phoenix continues to hang on to the third-best record, and appears on its way to getting the No. 2 seed in the West. The Suns are likely to end up in that spot if they win the Pacific Division, and they took a big step in that direction on Wednesday by easily beating their closest pursuer for first place with a 126-95 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Nash had 25 points and 12 assists in just three quarters, and made six of the team’s 16 3-pointers as Phoenix increased its lead over the Clippers to 7 1/2 games.

“I think we all knew it was a big game for us,” Nash said. “In many ways, it would be tough not to say this clinches the division. We had that frame of mind going into the game, and we played like it from start to finish.”

Known for their potent offense, the Suns have been particularly impressive at that end over the last two games.

A night before making 16 3-pointers in the victory over the Clippers, Phoenix won 129-120 at Seattle as four Suns scored 20 points or more. Phoenix shot better than 55 percent from the field in both wins and totaled 64 assists.

“Everybody’s unselfish. We don’t have just one player that we try to get the shots,” said Boris Diaw, averaging 17.9 points during Phoenix’s current 14-2 stretch. “Everybody screens for everybody, and everybody is trying to work for everybody and that way everybody gets to shoot the ball.”

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