PHOENIX (AP)—The Phoenix Suns recovered from what nearly was an embarrassing stumble and eliminated Golden State from playoff contention.
While Baron Davis just sat and watched.
Fighting off a cold that he said sapped his energy, Amare Stoudemire scored 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Phoenix recovered after blowing a 17-point lead for a 122-116 victory Monday night.
The Warriors’ loss clinched the final playoff spot in the West for Denver.
Steve Nash nearly had a triple-double with 13 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds as the Suns remained in the midst of a scramble for playoff positioning and a possible home-court advantage in the first round.
Golden State played the entire second half without Baron Davis, who was benched by coach Don Nelson after going 2-for-13 in just under 17 minutes.
“I gave Baron a much-needed rest the second half,” was all Nelson would say afterward.
Davis, the Warriors’ leading scorer at 22 points a game, left without talking to reporters.
His absence lulled the Suns into a false sense of security.
“When we saw Baron Davis wasn’t going to start the second half, we thought that the game was going to be easy,” Phoenix’s Leandro Barbosa said, “and it’s not that way. I think they were playing better without Baron.”
“I’m kind of glad it happened that way,” D’Antoni said of the blown lead. “We looked pretty good at the end. We looked sharp, and that’s the kind of stuff you need to get you going.”
Phoenix, Houston and Utah are tied for the fourth-best record in the West at 54-27, a game behind San Antonio. Phoenix ends its regular season Wednesday night at home against Portland.
“There’s a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda,” Nash said, “but overall with all things that have gone on this year, we’ve put ourselves in a good position. If we can win the last game, we could creep into the top four there. That would be nice, but either way I think our team is still getting better, and we can just keep improving throughout the playoffs.”
The Suns led by 17 in the second quarter and were up 73-57 in the first minute of the third. But the Warriors rallied behind Jackson and led 107-96 with 6:59 left.
Phoenix used an 11-0 run to tie it on Bell’s layup with 4:21 to play.
Jackson’s 3-pointer with 3 minutes to go tied it at 112, but Stoudemire’s two free throws with 2:28 left made it 114-112. Barbosa’s 3-pointer from the corner, on an assist from Boris Diaw, put Phoenix up 117-112.
Biedrins scored inside to cut the lead to 117-114, but Barbosa made a driving layup with 56 seconds left.
Stoudemire was 7-of-8 from the foul line in the final period.
“I was fighting a severe cold out there. It was hard for me to get my energy up,” Stoudemire said. “Fatigue definitely came in a lot faster than normal, but I was able to get it going that fourth quarter and give us that spark to help get this win.”
Jackson, who played just 6 1/2 minutes in the first half, made his first six shots in the third quarter.
The Suns’ Grant Hill aggravated a sore right groin early in the second quarter and was held out of the rest of the game in what team officials described as a precaution. D’Antoni said he probably would keep Hill out of Wednesday’s finale, too, but he should be ready for the playoff opener this weekend.
Golden State dominated the third quarter behind Jackson, who was 6-of-8, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers in the period. Jackson made two 3s in a 15-0 outburst that gave Golden State an 88-82 lead with 3:21 to go in the third.
The Warriors outscored Phoenix 38-19 in the quarter to lead 95-90 entering the fourth period.
“We gave our all, we played hard to the end,” Ellis said. “I mean, the better team won. That’s it.”
Stoudemire scored at least 20 points for the 18th game in a row, third most in franchise history. … Hill has missed 13 games this season. … Golden State (48-33) could tie the NBA mark for best record without making the playoffs. The mark of 49-33 is held by the 1971-72 Suns. … The Warriors’ 38 points were the most by a Phoenix opponent in the third quarter this season.