SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Instead of worrying about how the San Antonio Spurs won Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, Steve Nash is more interested in why the Phoenix Suns lost.
“I’d like to give them all the credit in the world, I think they’re a terrific team,” Nash said Sunday. “But I know those are shots we make and are capable of making.”
The Spurs took a 2-1 lead in the series with a 108-101 victory on Saturday. Nash doesn’t think it will be hard for the Suns to correct many of their problems before Game 4 on Monday night.
“I shot the ball poorly, I thought we, as a team, missed a bunch of layups, fumbled balls and just didn’t convert and finish. And I think we missed a lot of free throws,” Nash said. “In one respect that’s not very pleasing, and in another respect it shows that we’re capable.”
Getting Nash — who was scoreless in the first half on Saturday — going and keeping Amare Stoudemire on the floor longer, not to mention hanging on to the ball during key stretches, are improvements the Suns are looking to make.
“We’re not going to beat them if things go screwy and we don’t play great. You can’t do that,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “And they’re not going to beat us unless they play great.”
Nash missed his first nine shots Saturday and Stoudemire, though he had 21 points, was limited to 21 minutes of action because of foul trouble. While they outshot San Antonio both from the field (49 percent to 44 percent) and 3-point range (53 percent to 35 percent), the Suns were just 18-of-27 (67 percent) on free throws.
D’Antoni said he’s been mostly pleased with the Suns’ offense in the first three games. Phoenix is shooting 49 percent from the field and averaging almost 103 points.
“We have enough good shots at the basket. We’re shooting at a very high percentage for the series, we’re scoring enough points,” D’Antoni said. “We’re in the framework of what we want to do. … We’re just going to have to make better plays at bigger moments.”
But, D’Antoni said, Phoenix has to protect the ball better. The Suns had 16 turnovers — Nash contributed five — that allowed San Antonio to pick up 23 points.
“We just had too many turnovers last night, for whatever reason,” he said. “And give them some credit obviously, but I just thought it was a lot of us.”
Gregg Popovich and his Spurs think plenty of credit should go to Tim Duncan, who had 33 points and 19 rebounds Saturday. Duncan also had 33 points in the Spurs’ Game 1 victory and 29 in their 101-81 Game 2 loss. In the last two games, the Suns’ Kurt Thomas, going it alone against Duncan, has been challenged to contain him.
“He’s so reliable. He’s performing so good for long periods of time so it makes everybody feel more secure,” said Manu Ginobili, who besides scoring 24 points Saturday also got a bruised eye that he said on Sunday should heal up just fine. “He’s the guy that makes this team (go) from a good one to a great one.”
Both teams said their confidence is up heading into Game 4.
“We’re probably going to get their best game of the series and hopefully they’ll get the best game of the series from us,” the Spurs’ Robert Horry said.
The Suns want to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole, but Raja Bell refused to call Monday’s game a must-win.
“They’ve got to beat us two more times, we need to win three,” Bell said. “Monday doesn’t count for two games.”