SAN ANTONIO - Instead of a trip back to Phoenix for a Game 7, the San Antonio Spurs closed out their contentious series with the Suns with a 114-106 victory in Game 6 on Friday night.
San Antonio will host the Utah Jazz on Sunday in the opening game of the Western Conference finals. It's the Spurs' third trip to the conference finals in the past five years and they won the title the other two times.
Manu Ginobili had 33 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who saw a 20-point lead cut to five late in the game. Tony Parker added 30 points for San Antonio, while Tim Duncan had 24 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high nine blocked shots.
The Suns had All-NBA first-team selection Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw back from their one-game suspensions for leaving the bench area at the end of Game 4. Stoudemire led the Suns with 38 points, 15 in the fourth quarter, and 12 rebounds.
San Antonio's Robert Horry missed the second of his two-game suspension for the hit on Steve Nash that started the incident.
The Spurs let a big lead dwindle in the fourth quarter, just as they did in Game 4, but this time they didn't give up the lead or the game. Phoenix got as close as 106-101 with 34 seconds to play, but even Nash's 15 fourth-quarter points couldn't save the Suns.
San Antonio entered the fourth leading 81-67 and Ginobili led the way over the final 12 minutes, hitting a 3-pointer with 10Â½ minutes to play to make it 86-70. His basket with a little more than nine minutes left gave the Spurs a 92-72 lead.
"Manu took over for a while there, Bruce (Bowen) hit some 3s," Duncan said. "We got a little bit of a lead and it snowballed."
Nash, who had just three points going into the fourth, keyed the 20-7 run that got Phoenix back in the game.
Nash's 3 with under a minute to play made it 105-99. Ginobili made 1 of 2 free throws and Shawn Marion's dunk brought the Suns within 106-101. But Ginobili made two more free throws and Michael Finley hit a basket to put the Spurs up by nine with 17 seconds left.
Nash finished with 18 points and 14 assists, while Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell each had 13 points.
"That kid's the greatest," Duncan said of Nash. "He's unbelievable the way he makes his team run. Bruce did an unbelievable job chasing him the whole time. We respect him so much. We stayed on his hip."
Now it's the Jazz on Sunday afternoon.
"It's like a back-to-back. We have to get ready really quick," Duncan said. "They're playing excellent basketball. We have to be ready for execution and physical play."
Horry's flagrant foul that sent Nash tumbling into the scorer's table and a forearm to Bell in the subsequent scrum just before the Suns sealed a 104-98 victory in Game 4 resulted in his two-game suspension.
The Horry-Nash incident was just one among several that marked the series as confrontational, physical and nasty:
• Stoudemire early in the series called the Spurs a "dirty team" and said Bowen purposely kicked him during the Suns' series-evening Game 2 win. Bowen said he clipped Stoudemire, but that he would not kick him on purpose.
• In Game 1, Nash, who has been on the receiving end of several blows during the series, collided with Parker and got a gash across his nose that required six stitches. He had to sit out for a crucial stretch in the game's final minute.
• In Game 3, Bowen gave his critics ammunition when he kneed Nash in the groin area. Nash said Bowen told him on the court that the move was unintentional. The foul originally called on the play was later upgraded to a "flagrant foul 1."
• Ginobili sustained a bruised and bloodied eye on a drive to the basket in Game 3.
The teams were tied at 23 at the end of the first quarter on Friday.
Stoudemire made it known early that he was back after the suspension. He scored 17 points in the first half, including going 5-of-5 from the free throw line, and had seven rebounds.
Nash had just three points at halftime as the Spurs took a 53-51 lead.
Midway through the third quarter the Spurs took over. Ginobili hit the go-ahead basket to make it 60-59 for San Antonio and sparked a 14-2 run with 6:18 left in the period.
With 5:47 left in the third, Parker's spin to the basket for a layup gave the Spurs a 63-59 lead. Bowen hit a 3 with 5:23 on the clock and Ginobili then hit consecutive 3-pointers to give San Antonio 72-61 lead with 3:18 to go in the third.
The Spurs' fourth 3 of the quarter, which Bowen hit from the corner with 55 seconds left, put the Spurs up 79-66.
NOTES: A group of nuns, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, planned to pray for the Spurs in San Antonio ahead of Friday's game. "Does God love the Spurs more than the Suns? No, but we love them more than the Suns," Sister Geri Eveler said in a statement. "The Spurs are our boys!" ... Jeff Van Gundy, fired earlier Friday by the Houston Rockets, was an analyst for ESPN for the game. ... Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, when asked earlier Friday whether Horry's absence would make the Spurs short-handed, joked "That's a little hand. That's not even a big hand. Give me Duncan, will you?"
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