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Duncan's 31 and 15 lead San Antonio triumph

PHOENIX (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs no longer have to worry
about being on the wrong side of playoff history -- or about facing
Amare Stoudemire.

All they have to think about now is trying to win another NBA
championship.

Tim Duncan had 31 points and 15 rebounds and the Spurs' defense
keyed a gamechanging 18-4 third-quarter run, giving them enough of
a cushion to hold off Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns with a 101-95
victory Wednesday night that ended the Western Conference finals in
five games.

As thrilled as the Spurs are about making the Finals for the
second time in three years, and third in seven, they're likely also
relieved to be done with this series -- and Stoudemire.

San Antonio led 3-0 before losing Game 4 at home and certainly
didn't want to go home for a Game 6 with the Suns halfway to
pulling off a comeback that's unprecedented in NBA history, but
fresh in the minds of sports fans after the Boston Red Sox did it
last October.

The victory gives Duncan's aching ankles and Manu Ginobili's
bumps and bruises plenty of time to heal while San Antonio waits to
find out whether it will next face Miami or Detroit. The Heat and
Pistons are tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Thursday night in Miami. The
final round will start June 9, and the Spurs, who won it all in
1999 and 2003, will be the home team regardless.

Stoudemire almost kept the Suns' fabulous season alive by
scoring 17 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, several on the
powerful slam dunks that have become his calling card.

His 37-point average in this series broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's
record for a conference finals first-timer and he set the club
record for consecutive playoff games with at least 30 points, doing
so in all five. Phoenix hadn't even had a player score 30 points in
five straight regular-season games since Charles Barkley in March
1993.

Stoudemire scored the final two points just before time expired,
then congratulated Duncan after the buzzer, with the two-time MVP
offering congrats of his own.

"These guys are an incredible offensive team and they kept
coming but we stuck with it," Duncan said. "These weren't the
kind of scores we like to play in but we made it happen."

Phoenix came into this season never expecting to still be
playing in June after winning 29 games in 2003-04. But with an
energetic offense, the Suns ran off the most points and most wins
in the NBA and charged through the first two rounds. This was only
the second time in 15 postseason games they failed to score 100
points, the other also against the Spurs.

With big first halves from Stoudemire and league MVP Steve Nash,
Phoenix was up by one at halftime. San Antonio quickly changed
that.

Trailing 52-51 a few possessions into the third quarter, a dunk
by Robert Horry gave the Spurs the lead, then began a 6:30 stretch
that guaranteed they'd keep it the rest of the way. When it ended,
San Antonio was up 69-56.

Along the way, the Suns had four turnovers (traveling by Nash,
two lost balls by Stoudemire and a 24-second violation), Nash
missed three shots, Stoudemire missed another and the flourish
ended with Joe Johnson getting blocked twice.

The Spurs, meanwhile, had Tony Parker find his groove by hitting
one of his trademark teardrop jumpers and two straight 3-pointers.
Duncan passed out of a double team to an open Bruce Bowen for a
jumper, then -- perhaps the best sign of all for the Spurs -- Duncan
made two free throws.

Phoenix kept clawing and was within 93-90 on a 3-pointer by Jim
Jackson with 2:45 left. However, San Antonio has too many players
with championship pedigree to fold down the stretch. Duncan tipped
in his own miss on the next possession, then a steal by Horry led
to a layup by Parker for a 97-90 lead with 50.3 seconds to go.

Duncan was 14-of-24 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free
throw line, missing only his first one. It barely made it to the
front rim, an ugly reminder of his 3-for-12 performance from the
line in Game 4.

Ginobili had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Parker
had 18, although he was 8-for-21.

Nash scored 21 points, but only three in the second half. He
also had 10 assists.

Johnson, whose big performance in Game 4 was the Suns' biggest
hope for coming back in the series, cooled off by shooting just
6-of-17 for 14 points. Unlike the last game, his presence didn't
help open things up for Shawn Marion and Quentin Richardson. Marion
had eight points and Richardson, who went down hard in the first
half, was scoreless in 28 minutes.

Game notes
The Suns became the 13th team to lose three straight home
games in a postseason. Their '93 team that made the Finals also did
it. ... With Phoenix out, the highest-scoring team will not win the
title for the 49th time in the NBA's 59 seasons, and it'll be the
27th time the team with the best regular-season record doesn't win
it all. ... San Antonio's Tony Massenburg got into the game for the
first time this series with 2:53 left in the first half after Nazr
Mohammed picked up his third foul. Massenburg has played a key role
this series, though -- he was Stoudemire's stand-in during
practices.