These teams are so evenly matched. But the Spurs -- against the Suns and everyone else, too -- make one or two more plays in one or two more games each series to get it done. A big part of this is because they are true to their system, to their roles, to who they are. Even though Nash tied the game at 85-all with a big 3-pointer, he followed it with two turnovers, and he was out of rhythm most of the night due to the over-abundance of Diaw on the block as well as the overall slowdown on offense ever since Shaq arrived. The Suns stopped playing to their strength: the break-neck running game.
Spurs, especially Parker, showing some extra emotion. This isn't a typical first-round series. These two teams are both championship caliber. The Spurs realize what a significant accomplishment this is.
Spurs win, 92-87.
Nash and Giricek miss 3-point attempts. Duncan at the line: miss, make. Spurs, 92-87. 2.3 seconds to go.
Ginobili fouled again: make, make. Spurs, 91-87. 23.1 seconds left.
Bowen knocks the ball off Nash on the inbounds play.
That miss by Ginobili, of course, changes everything. The Suns have tons of two-point options. Do they go to Diaw in the post, which has been successful tonight? Or do they keep the ball in the hands of their best player in Nash? Does Phoenix go for a 3?
Duncan inbounds to Ginobili, who is fouled by Bell. Ginobili to the line: make, miss. Spurs, 89-87. 25.7 seconds left.
Diaw over Ginobili in the post. Suns within 1, 88-87. 26.2 seconds to go. Not enough time for the Suns to play this straight-up. They'll have to foul.
Suns don't need a 3 here, but Nash loves to go for it in these situations.
Parker, using screen-roll, buries another jumper. Spurs, 88-85, 29.8 seconds left.
Diaw in the post, turnover.
Duncan misses a long jumper.
Nash turnover. Parker at the line: miss, make. Spurs, 86-85, 1:26 left.
Parker had a step to the hole, but Stoudemire came out of nowhere for an unbelievable block. Tremendous quickness off the floor by Stoudemire.
Nash for 3 to tie it. 85-all.
Parker a jumper. Spurs, 85-82.
Nash misses a tough, fallaway jumper.
Thomas at the line: make, make. Spurs, 83-82. 2:55 left.
Nash jumper on the run. Suns, 82-81. Huge shot by Nash, who was 2-for-12 prior to this one.
Shaq at the line again: make, miss. 9x20
Duncan a runner. Spurs, 81-79.
Shaq back at the line: miss, make. 8x18. Tie game, 79-all, 4:30 left.
Parker denied twice on drives, forced into missing a jumper.
Another Hack-a-Shaq. Shaq at the line: make, make. 7x16
Parker at the line: make, make. Spurs, 79-76. 4:59 to go.
Nash with a turnover and two misses coming out of the timeout. With all of his deferring earlier, Nash is not in rhythm.
Parker to Duncan. Spurs, 77-76. 6:43 to go. This final stretch is where the Spurs have been so tough during their three-titles-in-five-years run. Concentration and execution at both ends. Can the Suns toughen up and stave off elimination?
Parker fouled hard by Bell on the break. No flagrant. Good call. Parker splits 2. Spurs within 1, 74-73.
Parker to Duncan. Spurs within 2, 74-72.
The Suns completely collapse their entire defense every time Parker drives now. This is a complete switch from all earlier strategies this series. They're daring Parker to pass the ball to someone on the perimeter. But, with Finley 0-for-2 and Bowen 0-for-2, Parker isn't looking to give it up.
Diaw over Horry. Suns, 74-70.
Parker denied again, Duncan misses.
Diaw has drawn two more fouls in the post to start the fourth.
Parker forces his way to the hoop and is fouled. Parker makes 1 of 2. Suns, 72-71.
Parker drives again, forced baseline and around the basket. He's unable to get shots in the paint now.
Parker forced into a jumper, which misses. 1-for-4 this half.
Popovich just said he thinks Manu is playing too fast, trying way too hard, and that he needs to slow down.
Parker stopped on another drive -- turnover. Suns lead after 3, 72-69.
Ginobili and 1. Spurs with 2, 71-69. Maybe that will get him going.
Bell off a curl, unguarded. Suns, 69-64.
Diaw reverse dunk off a turnover by Oberto. Suns, 67-62.
Spurs don't have the spacing or the shooters on the floor right now to stretch Phoenix's defense. As a result, the Suns are able to sag in the paint and off the edges to help on Parker.
Bell for 3. Suns, 65-62.
Parker's drive clogged, denied again. Duncan rebounds his own miss, puts it back in. Tie game, 62-all.
Bell off glass. Suns, 62-60.
Udoka fouls Nash. Suns will get free throws the final 4:18 of the quarter. Nash makes 2 at the line. Tie game, 60-all.
Stoudemire filling the lane, and 1. Suns within 2, 60-58.
Parker's last few drives have been clogged nicely by the Suns, who have forced him to give up slow, hold up, then give up the ball.
Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" just belted out while the ball was in play. Strange. Diaw dunks. Suns down 6, 60-54.
Diaw has drawn three fouls in the post this quarter. Still 9:20 to go. The penalty is looming early for the Spurs.
Bell for 3. Suns within 4, 54-50. Five straight for Phoenix to open the third.
Parker just passed up an open lane and/or jumper to pass to Thomas, who missed a jumper. No reason for Parker to give up the ball.
Diaw over Finley in the post.
Spurs: 9-2 edge in fastbreak points at the break.
Diaw is effective in the post tonight, but again, this post game isn't what the Phoenix Suns are all about. Nash, with just four points and zero assists on 2-for-8 shooting, is deferring too much. What is the Suns' identity? Adjustments are necessary, but changes in philosophy are difficult to implement mid-season, let alone mid-series. The Suns have tried both in 2008.
Parker and 1. Spurs, 54-45. San Antonio closes the second quarter on a 14-2 run over the final 4:31. Parker is the best player on the floor again: 20 points, five assists in 20 minutes.
Spurs cranking up the defense the final five minutes. Current run is 11-2. 20.9 seconds before halftime. San Antonio is holding for the final shot.
Oberto 2-for-2 at the line. Spurs, 51-45.
Hack-a-Shaq, Round 5. Shaq at the line: make, miss. 4x12
Hack-a-Shaq, Round 4. Shaq at the line: miss, make. 3x10
Ginobili picks up his third foul. Shaq at the line: miss, miss. 2x8
Udoka dribbles into a jumper. Spurs, 45-43.
Hack-a-Shaq, Round 3. Shaq at the line: miss, miss. 2x6
Udoka ties it with a 3. 43-all.
Diaw a long 2. Suns, 43-40.
Duncan, Ginobili and Parker each have two fouls with 4:47 to go before halftime. Ideally, Popovich would sit them to avoid a third foul for any of them. However, that's the Spurs entire offense. And they can't let the game get away from them.
Parker two free throws. Spurs back in front, 40-39.
Stoudemire steps in and takes a charge on Duncan, who picks up his second foul.
Shaq spins on Duncan and dunks. Suns, 39-36.
Barbosa corner 3. Suns grab their first lead, 36-34.
Stoudemire offensive rebound and 1. Suns within 1, 30-29. 7-0 run for Phoenix.
Spurs lead, 30-26, after 1. Parker with 13. Ginobili, meanwhile, didn't score and only played four minutes because he picked up two quick fouls. The Spurs will need him to find some rhythm while Parker gets a brief rest.
Diaw over Finley in the post. Suns within 4.
Horry for 3. Spurs, 30-22.
Hack-a-Skinner, Round 2. Skinner at the line: make, make. 3x4
Parker screen-roll once, regroups, screen-roll twice, teardrop. Spurs, 27-20.
Hack-a-Skinner, Round 1. Skinner at the line: make, miss. 1x2
Parker makes two at the line. Spurs, 25-19.
Hack-a-Shaq, Round 2. Shaq at the line: miss, make. 2x4
Duncan stripped, recovers, dunks. Spurs, 23-18.
Hack-a-Shaq, Round 1. Shaq at the line: miss, make. 1x2
Parker and 1. Spurs, 21-17.
Diaw over Finley again in the post. Suns within 3, 16-13.
Six in a row for Parker on drives. Duncan adds two free throws. Spurs, 16-11.
Diaw outside over Finley. 8-all.
Phoenix's bigger lineup with Diaw in has caused the Spurs some matchup problems at the defensive end. Finley winds up with Diaw in the post, which forces some soft doubles. Duncan just helped and gave up a bucket to Stoudemire. Diaw then scored over Finley.
Kurt Thomas rolls in a jumper. 4-0, Spurs.
Duncan drills a long jumper. 2-0, Spurs.
Duncan with a freshly shaved head. This is serious. It's close-out time.