Steve Nash(notes) watched from the bench while the Suns fought off a rally, then pulled away for a 112-101 victory Wednesday night that snapped the Spurs’ four-game winning streak and kept the Suns tied for second in the Western Conference with four games to play.
“If we lose I probably would have gotten fired on the spot,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. “I’ve got a two-time MVP sitting over there that had a great game.”
Amare Stoudemire scored 29 for the Suns, who led by as many as 17 after San Antonio had cut the lead to five early in the final quarter.
Jason Richardson(notes), scoreless against Milwaukee on Sunday, had 20 and Nash had 16 points and 12 assists in Phoenix’s 11th victory in 12 games. Richardson also sat out the fourth quarter as Gentry leaned on the bench, because the reserves were playing so well.
“I don’t think anybody was more happy than Steve the way Goran played,” Gentry said. “I just think that’s what makes us a really good team, just the chemistry and the way everyone pulls for each other.”
Indeed, that’s just the way Nash felt.
“Alvin’s been ballsy that way lately and it’s been great,” Nash said. “One, it’s important to give those guys confidence and, two, it gives us some rest.”
Manu Ginobili(notes), who had averaged 22.5 points since the All-Star break, scored 10 on 5-of-14 shooting, 0 of 5 on 3-pointers. Tim Duncan(notes) had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs, who fell into a three-way tie for the West’s final three playoff spots.
“In the first half, we really missed a great opportunity by missing our free throws,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “But in the second half, our execution defensively wasn’t good. I thought they sliced and diced us and did a real good job executing their offense.”
Phoenix, which hadn’t played since Sunday, took the lead for good with an 11-2 run to close the first half and was up 61-52 at the break.
The Spurs fell to 7-9 when playing the second of consecutive nights.
“We knew they had played last night,” Richardson said. “We knew we had to come in and just run them and tire them out.”
Richardson, bothered recently by a sore back, scored 13 in the third quarter. He dunked after a slick pass from Nash to put Suns up 88-74 with 1:44 to play in the third period. But the Spurs scored the last six of the quarter, capped by Matt Bonner’s(notes) 9-foot hook shot from the baseline at the buzzer that made it 88-80 entering the fourth.
The Suns ran away with it after that.
Phoenix is tied with Denver and Dallas at 51-27. The Spurs are even with Portland and Oklahoma City at 48-30.
“The only way to change your position is to lose, really,” Nash said. “We want to try to win every game going in here and most importantly try to play well.”
At one point in the first half, the Spurs were 4 of 13 from the foul line. They were 7 of 18 at the break, then 10 of 10 in the second half.
“There were too many things that we could have taken care of that were simple,” Duncan said. “Just turning the ball over, missed free throws. We had a bunch of missed assignments defensively. That’s a lot of things that we can clean up. It’s a disappointing game for us, but such is life. We’ve got another one in two days.”
NOTES: Duncan left the game with 2:31 left in the first half after taking an elbow to the forehead from Ginobili but was back moments later. … Suns C Robin Lopez(notes) says there is no timetable for his return from a back injury. He says the bulging disk is to be re-evaluated by doctors next week. … Asked before the game how Parker has looked, Popovich said, “He’s still cute. “