PHOENIX (AP) — Finally, Phoenix has beaten San Antonio in a Game 1.
Win three more, and maybe those images of playoffs past — Steve Nash's bloodied nose, Robert Horry's hip-check of Nash into the scoring table, Bruce Bowen kicking Nash in the groin, and Tim Duncan's one and only 3-point basket of the 2007-08 season — will fade into history.
After resting his strained right hip for three days, Nash had 33 points and 10 assists, and the Suns fought off third- and fourth-quarter rallies Monday night to win 111-102 in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Phoenix.
"You can't get too excited," the Suns' Amare Stoudemire said. "They're a team with a great pedigree that knows how to come back in a series."
Any concern that Nash would be slowed by the injury was erased in a hurry. He made his five shots, including an array of twisting, swiveling drives to the hoop, and had 17 points when the first quarter ended.
"He ran it down our throat," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Jason Richardson scored 27 and Stoudemire had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns.
Manu Ginobili, tape across his broken nose, scored 27, Tony Parker 26 and Duncan 20 for the Spurs, who had won three straight Game 1s against the Suns, two of them in Phoenix.
Both of those times, in 2005 and 2007, the Spurs went on to win the NBA title.
"We put this one on ourselves," Duncan said. "We didn't react very well and they jumped on us right out of the gates."
Still, the Spurs stayed within striking distance, and the situation seemed ripe for another of those San Antonio daggers to the Suns' heart.
Twice San Antonio rallied from 14 back, with a 12-0 run in the third quarter and a 13-0 outburst that sliced Phoenix's lead to 94-93 on Ginobili's 7-foot runner with 4:26 to go in the game. Each time, the Suns didn't crumble.
"That's really frustrating when that happens," Ginobili said, "especially the second time. ... Against these guys, with the level of confidence they're playing at, you just can't blink."
Nash hurt his hip in a shootaround before Game 3 of the first-round series against Portland, and the injury bothered him greatly in the deciding Game 6 on Thursday. The team had Friday off, then he sat out practice Saturday and Sunday.
The rest did wonders.
"You never know what the game is going to present," Nash said. "You have to be willing and aggressive and do whatever you can. For me, I didn't know how I was going to feel physically, but dragging my leg around in Game 6 in Portland wasn't very fun and it was great to get out there and feel like I could do something."
The Spurs had to rely on their veteran big three, without much help, to stay in the game. George Hill managed just nine points on 2-of-9 shooting and struggled defensively. Richard Jefferson had five points and three rebounds in 33 minutes.
The Suns' star duo of Nash and Stoudemire got plenty of help from Richardson, who kept up his torrid playoff pace. Richardson has scored at least 27 in four of seven playoff games this season. Richardson had a 3-pointer to tie it after the Spurs had rallied to lead 67-64 in the third quarter, then he brought the house down with another one that put Phoenix up 103-95 with 1:23 to go.
"J-Rich hit two big shots for us and that really gave us a nice separation," Nash said. "Timely baskets, big baskets and the crowd got incredibly loud and there was great energy in the building. Our fans deserved it and we've got to look for more of the same next game."
NOTES: The Suns have won three out of four against San Antonio this season, all three wins came in Phoenix. ... Suns C Robin Lopez says he isn't ready yet to return but expects to play in the series. He's been out since March 26 with a back injury (bulging disk). ... The Spurs are 20-11 in playoff games against Phoenix in the Duncan era. ... Nash is 6-0 in the playoffs when he has at least 30 points and 10 assists. ... Phoenix is 18-8 in series when it won the first game.