With blood spewing from a cut on his nose, Steve Nash could only watch from the bench while the San Antonio Spurs put away Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
"There was nothing I could do," the Phoenix Suns star said. "It was obviously frustrating, but it was really out of my hands."
Tim Duncan had 33 points and 16 rebounds - eight offensive - and Tony Parker added 32 points, leading the Spurs to a rugged 111-106 victory yesterday over host Phoenix.
Nash scored 31 but missed a crucial 45 seconds in the final minute because of the cut on his nose, the result of a head-on collision with Parker with 2:53 to play. The cut required six stitches after the game.
"You only see things like that in a boxing match," the Spurs' Robert Horry said, "where a guy cuts his nose and it won't stop bleeding. You feel bad for the guy because you want to have the best team out there at the end of the game, and he wasn't out there."
Michael Finley added 19 points for San Antonio.
Amare Stoudemire had 20 points and 18 rebounds but was just 6-for-19 shooting. Leandro Barbosa scored 18 points for the Suns. Shawn Marion, after a slow start, scored 16, 11 in the final quarter.
The score was a bit high for Duncan's liking.
"We'd rather play in the 90s, we'd rather play in the 80s," he said. "That's our type of game, but we've got a lot of guys who are shooting the ball really well. We've been moving the ball really well, and the points are going up on the board."
Game 2 is tomorrow night in Phoenix.
After Parker stole Nash's pass, the two collided head-to-head in the San Antonio backcourt. Parker fell to the floor. Nash initially thought Parker was the one who was hurt, and went to ask if he was all right, not knowing his nose was covered in blood.
"I thought I was the one who was bleeding," Parker said.
Both stayed in the game.
Nash, with a bandage over the cut, made a three-pointer to tie it at 102-102 with 2:25 to play, then Duncan gave the Spurs the lead for good with a 10-foot baseline hook shot. Nash missed a three, then Parker sank a 23-footer to put San Antonio ahead 106-102 with 1:23 remaining.
Nash's driving layup with 1:13 left cut it to 106-104, and Raja Bell drew an offensive foul on Parker to give Phoenix the ball. But Nash had to come out with 54 seconds to go because of blood oozing around the bandage.
After Nash's departure, Barbosa missed a three-pointer that would have given Phoenix the lead. Manu Ginobili made one of two free throws to make it 107-104 with 32 seconds to play, then Stoudemire's two free throws sliced the lead to 107-106 with 26 seconds to go.
After a San Antonio timeout, Barbosa was called for a foul before the ball was thrown inbounds. That meant Finley got a free throw, and made it, and San Antonio kept possession.
The bleeding finally was contained and Nash returned with 9.1 seconds to go, but by then it was too late.
Asked if he thought the Suns would have won had he not been forced to sit, he said: "It's impossible to say, but I think we would have had a shot. It was pretty bad timing, but you know that's life."
Nash was more concerned with what he perceives as a seasonlong tendency for the Suns to play less-than-inspired basketball over stretches.
"Very surprising, very frustrating," he said. "How many times can you talk about it? We just have to have a bigger heart and continue to push through these invisible barriers that seem to pop up."
In another game:
* At Cleveland, the defense kept New Jersey's Big 3 from getting into an offensive flow and LeBron James scored 21 points despite a cold in an 81-77 win over the Nets in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Cleveland held New Jersey to 37 percent shooting and outrebounded the Nets 51-37. Larry Hughes added 17 points and Sasha Pavlovic a playoff career-high 15 for the Cavs, who will host Game 2 tomorrow night.
Vince Carter's 23 points led the Nets, but Jason Kidd, who averaged a triple-double in the opening-round win over Toronto, had just seven on 2-for-11 shooting. Richard Jefferson, the third member of New Jersey's offensive machine, added 16 points. *