“There was nothing I could do,” he said. “It was obviously frustrating, but it was really out of my hands.”
Nash scored 31 but missed a crucial 45 seconds in the final minute because of the bloody cut on his nose, the result of a head-on collision with Parker with 2:53 to play. The cut required six stitches after the game.
“You only see things like that in a boxing match,” the Spurs’ Robert Horry said, “where a guy cuts his nose and it won’t stop bleeding. You feel bad for the guy because you want to have the best team out there at the end of the game, and he wasn’t out there.”
Michael Finley added 19 points for San Antonio.
The score was a bit high for Duncan’s liking.
“We’d rather play in the 90s, we’d rather play in the 80s,” he said. “That’s our type of game, but we’ve got a lot of guys who are shooting the ball really well. We’ve been moving the ball really well, and the points are going up on the board.”
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
After Parker stole Nash’s pass, the two collided head-to-head in the San Antonio backcourt. Parker fell to the floor. Nash initially thought Parker was the one who was hurt, and went to ask if he was all right, not knowing his nose was covered in blood.
“I thought I was the one who was bleeding,” Parker said.
Both stayed in the game.
Nash, with a bandage over the cut, made a 3-pointer to tie it at 102 with 2:25 to play, then Duncan gave the Spurs the lead for good with a 10-foot baseline hook shot. Nash missed a 3, then Parker sank a 23-footer to put San Antonio ahead 106-102 with 1:23 remaining.
Nash’s driving layup with 1:13 left cut it to 106-104, and Raja Bell drew an offensive foul on Parker to give Phoenix the ball. But Nash had to come out with 54 seconds to go because of blood oozing around the bandage.
After Nash’s departure, Barbosa missed a 3-pointer that would have given Phoenix the lead. Manu Ginobili made one of two free throws to make it 107-104 with 32 seconds to play, then Stoudemire’s two free throws sliced the lead to 107-106 with 26 seconds to go.
After a San Antonio timeout, Barbosa was called for a foul before the ball was thrown inbounds. That meant Finley got a free throw, and made it, and San Antonio kept possession.
The bleeding finally was contained and Nash returned with 9.1 seconds to go, but by then it was too late.
Asked if he thought the Suns would have won had he not been forced to sit, he said, “It’s impossible to say, but I think we would have had a shot. It was pretty bad timing, but you know that’s life.”
Nash was more concerned with what he perceives as a season-long tendency for the Suns to play less-than-inspired basketball over stretches.
“Very surprising, very frustrating,” he said. “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.”
The Spurs dominated the boards 49-35.
“It was really an emphasis for us because they are so athletic and they score so much,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We really couldn’t afford to give them second-chance points. We did a better job of that than we usually do.”
Neither team led by more than eight points in the intense contest between the teams with the two best records left in the playoffs.
Marion broke out of a subpar offensive game to score seven in the 82 seconds of the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer, followed by a fast-break layup, put Phoenix ahead 84-83 with 9:38 remaining.
There were seven lead changes and three ties after that.
Parker, who loves to play against the fast Suns and averaged 28 points against them in the regular season, was one shy of his career playoff high.
When the teams returned to the court at halftime, Suns coach Mike D’Antoni got into a heated conversation with referee Bob Delaney at midcourt. During the talk, Delaney turned called a technical against Suns assistant Mark Iavaroni, who was sitting on the Phoenix bench.
Finley’s free throw on the technical ignited a 16-5 Spurs’ run to start the second half. Parker scored six in the surge, capped by a 19-footer that put San Antonio ahead 67-59 with 8:05 left in the third.
After the game, D’Antoni was still grumbling about two calls—the inbounds foul on Barbosa and one on Stoudemire late in the second quarter.
“There were some calls that just changed the complexion of the game,” he said. “Now right, wrong, I’m not here to judge that, and I’m sure they had all the best intentions in the world. It’s just we didn’t get that break and they changed the complexion of the game.”
But he said the Spurs deserve credit for pulling it out.
“These guys are good,” D’Antoni said. “It’s almost like a heavyweight champion, you’ve got to knock them out. We didn’t do it.”
San Antonio has won five straight playoff games. … Marion turns 29 on Monday. … It’s the second time since 1975 that the league’s highest-scoring team (Suns 110.2 points) is going against the top defensive team (Spurs 90.1) in the playoffs. The other occasion was the 2005 Western Conference finals between Phoenix and San Antonio, which the Spurs won.