Despite the addition of Shaquille O’Neal, the San Antonio Spurs eliminated the Phoenix Suns for the fourth time in their last five playoff appearances, 92-87, Tuesday night, winning the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series in five games.
Tony Parker led the way with 31 points. Tim Duncan added 29 points and 17 rebounds.
The third-seeded Spurs will meet the second-seeded Hornets in a second-round series that begins Saturday at New Orleans.
Boris Diaw led the Suns with 22 points.
Four other players scored in the double digits, but the Suns had a four costly turnovers in the final minutes.
With the Spurs up, 88-87, after battling back and forth with the Suns throughout the fourth quarter, Manu Ginobili made one of two from the line with 25 seconds left.
Steve Nash turned the ball over on an inbounds pass from Raja Bell, and Phoenix sent Ginobili to the line again with 23 seconds left. Ginobili made both this time to make it 91-87.
Nash’s three-point attempt missed and Duncan hit another free throw. Diaw’s last-second three-point attempt missed, but it wouldn’t have made a difference.
The Spurs outscored the Suns, 23-15, in the fourth quarter, led by nine points apiece from Duncan and Parker.
O’Neal, acquired by Phoenix specifically to match up better with teams such as the Spurs, had 13 points and nine rebounds but made only nine of 20 free throws.
New Orleans 99, Dallas 94 -- The Mavericks never led as the Hornets won the first series by a New Orleans team in five games in sending Dallas out of the playoffs in the first round for the second straight season.
Chris Paul completed an impressive series with 24 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds for the Hornets. David West added 25 points and Jannero Pargo scored 17.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Devean George added 11 points in the fourth quarter as Dallas nearly rallied from a 17-point deficit. The Mavericks cut the lead to three in the final seconds before Peja Stojakovic sank a pair of free throws to seal it.
“We’re better than what we showed this series,” Nowitzki said. “The summer is going to be long.”
Tempers flared near the end, and Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse was ejected for a second technical foul with 1:47 left after slapping the ball out of Paul’s hands during a stoppage in play.
Jason Kidd, acquired to try to get the Mavericks deeper into the playoffs, finished with 14 points and nine assists.
Houston 95, Utah 69 -- The Rockets staved off elimination by holding the visiting Jazz to a season-low point total and 36.5% shooting (27 of 74) to reduce their series deficit to 3-2.
Tracy McGrady scored 29 points and Luis Scola added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Rockets.
“We’re in a great situation,” McGrady said. “We know we can win in Utah because we’ve done it before.”
Houston shot 47% (37 of 79), went 15 of 19 from the line and outscored Utah’s bench, 26-9.
Carlos Boozer led Utah with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Houston Coach Rick Adelman had Shane Battier and four reserves on the floor to start the second quarter and they took control after an 18-16 first-quarter lead. The Jazz, trailed, 43-32, at the half.
Detroit 98, Philadelphia 81 -- The Pistons took a 14-point first-quarter lead and were never seriously threatened in taking the lead in the series for the first time at 3-2 by becoming the first team to win consecutive games.
Chauncey Billups scored 21 points, Richard Hamilton had 20 and Rasheed Wallace added 19 for the Pistons. Billups also had 12 assists and Wallace had six blocked shots.
“We knew Game 6 was going to be an elimination game either way it went,” Billups said. “We wanted to be on the upper hand of that.”
Andre Iguodala scored a career playoff-high 21 points for the 76ers after struggling in the first four games but he didn’t have much help. None of his teammates reached double figures until Andre Miller in the third quarter, but that was after the point guard missed nine shots in a row in the first half.