Spurs memory No. 23: Horry-Nash rumble turns 2007 West semifinal series

  Horry’s tussle with Nash helps spark Spurs 2007 semifinal series victory over Phoenix

Date: Monday May 14, 2007
Place: ATT Center, San Antonio
Score: Phoenix Suns 104, San Antonio Spurs 98 

 It was a moment that turned around a series and may have provided the opening which enabled the Spurs to claim their most recent NBA championships. 

And if you ask any Phoenix fan today –more than four years after the fact – most remain firmly convinced that Robert Horry morphed from “Big Shot Rob” to “Cheap Shot Rob” in a matter of seconds.

Phoenix had just taken control of a 104-98 Game 4 victory in San Antonio that evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. The Suns overcame a 10-point deficit in the final nine minutes to earn the victory and reclaim homecourt advantage in the series. Steve Nash was the instigator of the comeback with 24 points and 15 assists.

In the final seconds of the game, Horry delivered a hard body check of Nash that pushed him into the scorer’s table. Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni initially charged at Horry before Raja Bell went after Horry.

“You got 250 going up against 150, it’s going to happen that way,” Horry explained to the Express-News.

As the rumble ensued, starting Phoenix center Amar’e Stoudemire and backup forward Boris Diaw left the team’s bench for a couple of steps as they advanced towards Horry and Bell.  

Horry was suspended with a flagrant 2 foul, leading to his suspension from the next two games because of the altercation and also because he used his forearm to shove away Bell in the resulting scrum. Stoudemire and Diaw both picked up one game suspensions from the league for leaving the bench area.

The suspensions cost Horry for two games, but the Suns lost more with Stoudemire and Diaw out of the lineup for Game 5. The league claimed the players violated a clear rule that forbids them from leaving their bench area during an altercation.

“I don’t like suspending players from games, and the commissioner doesn’t like suspending players from games, let alone a game in the middle of the second round of a playoff series,” said Stu Jackson, who, as the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations, assisted NBA commisioiner David Stern in determining the punishment.

“That’s unfortunate. But in this case, the rule is what it is.”

What they said, part I: “So I was like, ‘I’m going to just bump him a little bit. As you know the great acting skills Steve has when he hit the floor, he flopped and was, ‘Oh, I’m dying over here.’ It happens. I had no malicious intent to hurt Steve. I like Steve, and he’s a good person,” Horry, explaining the incident to the Express-News.

What they said, part II: “Sometimes in the playoffs, things get blown out of perspective, and it’s really going to be blown out of perspective because the other two players got suspended for a game. If that wouldn’t have happened, and if it wasn’t Steven Nash, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal,” Horry on the aftermath of the incident.

What they said, part III: ”Here in Arizona, we do have the most powerful microscopes and telescopes in the world. You could use those instruments and not find a shred of fairness or common sense in that decision,”  D’Antoni, trying to comprehend the suspensions on both teams.

What they said, part IV: ”As loose guidelines, you should probably punish the bad guys and bad deeds. The good guys and the no deeds — you kind of have to talk about,” D’Antoni, on the suspension of his two players.

What they said, part V: “It was just an end-of game foul and Steve fell down,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, on the rumble that sparked the incident.

What they said, part VI: “There was not going to be a fight. We  don’t have guys like that. You lump everybody together, and that’s not fair to the good guys,” D’Antoni on why he believed the NBA overreacted with the suspensions.

What they said, part VII: ”As I told you all over the past 15 or 40 years, I never liked ‘Big Shot Rob,’ so now that I go to ‘Big Cheap Shot Rob,’ it doesn’t bother me; I was already hated here,” Horry, on his image change in Phoenix after the suspension.

What they said, part  VIII: ”I was going to try to take a charge, and then it was, ‘Oh, he’s too fast, so let me bump him a little bit.’ As you know, the great acting skills Steve has, he hits the floor, gets the flop, and it’s, ‘Oh, I’m dying over here.’ I wasn’t trying to hurt him.” Horry on Nash’s reaction after the foul.

What they said, part IX: ”We went from soft to meaner than hell real quick,” Popovich on the Spurs’ national reputation transformation after the Horry incident.

What they said, part X: “As I sat in the lobby thinking to myself why would somebody make a bomb threat, along walks (TNT’s) Craig Sager, and the light went off,” Spurs guard Brent Barry explaining to the Express-News his rationale why a bomb threat was made at his team’s hotel.

What they said, part XI: “Everybody has to make their own decisions. But we have a good group of guys who are playing a very physical series, and what happens is what happens. Horry has never been known as a dirty player his whole career. It was just a unique set of circumstances,” Spurs majority owner Peter Holt, explaining the Horry-Nash altercation.

What they said, part XII: ”I know you have to roll with the punches literally a lot of the time. I felt like that was uncalled for. It’s hard to always take the high road,” Nash, to the Associated Press about the incident with Horry.

The upshot: Before Game 5, Horry was vilified outside America West Arena, where vendors hawked “DIRTY HORRY — Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?” T-shirts …  After Stern made his determination of the suspensions to Stoudemire and Diaw, he decided not to attend Game 6 in Phoenix.  On the night before Game 5, irate Phoenix fans called in a bomb threat to the Spurs’ team hotel, leading to a sweep of the building. But it didn’t matter to them. The Spurs took advantage of the absences of Stoudemire and Diaw to come back from a 16-point deficit to claim a gritty 88-85 victory over Phoenix in Game 5, winning the game on Bowen’s clutch 3-pointer with 36.4 seconds left in the game. Stoudemire and Diaw were back in the lineup for Game 6, but the Spurs claimed a 114-106 victory to wrap up the series – the Spurs’ most difficult in the 2007 playoffs. San Antonio then beat Utah in five games for the Western Conference title and swept Cleveland in four games to win their fourth NBA championship in a nine-season span.  D’Antoini’s whining caught up with him. His team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in the following season by the Spurs and was released after that season. He’s never won a playoff series since the Horry-Nash incident.

Previous Spurs most memorable moments:

No. 24: Ice’s clandestine arrival .

No. 25: Barkleywith series-clinching shot.

No. 26: Silas becomes first Spur.

No. 27: Robinson makes history with .

No. 28: after crucial 1999 victory at Houston.

No. 29: on Halloween night.

No. 30: Torrid San Diego shooting

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