SAN ANTONIO, (Reuters) – Playing with his right eye nearly swollen shut, Phoenix’s Steve Nash helped lead his team to a series-clinching win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and a spot in the Western Conference final.
Nash, who took an inadvertent Tim Duncan elbow to the eye during the third quarter, briefly went to the locker room to get stitches for a cut under his eyebrow and reappeared on the court to finish the game.
The Canadian went on to score 10 of his 20 points during the fourth quarter as the Suns, who had suffered season-ending defeats to the Spurs in their last four postseason meetings, eliminated San Antonio by taking the series 4-0.
“I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stay out there but my team mates were great,” Nash said. “I’ve lost to (the Spurs) a lot and we had a good opportunity. I wanted to give what I could for my team mates.”
Amare Stoudemire scored a game-high 29 points for Phoenix, who now move on to the Western Conference Final where they will face either the Los Angeles Lakers or Utah Jazz.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics refused to clear the way for a Cleveland Cavaliers coronation, answering the challenge with a 97-87 victory on Sunday to draw even in their semi-final series.
Rajon Rondo recorded a sensational triple-double to lead Boston with 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists as Boston regrouped from a 124-95 loss to the regular season’s top seed in the last game.
Game Five is today in Cleveland.
“With all the adversity we’ve gone through as a team, to come out here and get a win that was needed – it’s definitely a great feeling,” Rondo told reporters. “I was trying to be aggressive and my guys made shots.” In a game of late ebbs and flows, the Celtics scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to establish a 12-point lead then watched as the Cavs shrunk the advantage down to two with a little over four minutes remaining.
But Boston responded with a late run that included four points from Paul Pierce and a basket from reserve Tony Allen who had 15 points for the home team.
LeBron James, dealing with a strained and bruised elbow, finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in an effort that was far from his dominating Game Three performance that featured 38 points.