PHOENIX - Suns All-Star center Amare Stoudemire and teammate Boris Diaw were suspended yesterday for one game for leaving the bench after Robert Horry's flagrant foul of Steve Nash in Game 4 of the Suns' Western Conference semifinal against San Antonio.
The NBA also announced Horry was suspended two games for his actions with 18 seconds remaining in the Suns' 104-98 victory at San Antonio on Monday night. Phoenix's victory evened the series at two games apiece.
All three players will miss tonight's Game 5 in Phoenix of what has been a rough, intense showdown between two of the best teams in the NBA. Horry also will miss Friday night's Game 6 in San Antonio.
Horry was suspended for flagrantly fouling Nash and striking Raja Bell about the shoulders with a forearm, NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson said in a statement. Stoudemire and Diaw were suspended for leaving "the immediate vicinity of their bench" during the altercation.
The penalties are a severe blow to a Phoenix team that had rallied in the final minutes to beat the Spurs in San Antonio.
"This is a very unfortunate circumstance," Jackson said during a conference call. "No one here at the league office wants to suspend players any game, much less a pivotal game in the second round of a playoff series. But the rule, however, is the rule, and we intend to apply it consistently."
Stoudemire, a first-team all-NBA selection, is averaging team highs of 23.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in the series. His loss removes the Suns' imposing inside presence. Phoenix's problems are compounded by the absence of Diaw, who started when Stoudemire missed all but three games last season because of surgeries on both knees.
Horry, meanwhile, is a role player best known for his clutch three-pointers. He has scored 4.8 points per game. *