Work in Sports
Day in the Sun
Reserve sparks rally that has Spurs facing elimination
Posted: Saturday April 29, 2000 11:15 PM
PHOENIX (AP) -- Two years ago, Todd Day was waived by Miami five games into the season and wound up playing in Italy. Last year, he was with the La Crosse Bobcats of the Continental Basketball Association.
On Saturday, he was back in the big-time, his soft shooting touch and all-around hustle driving the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs to the brink of first-round playoff elimination.
Day, once an NBA lottery pick but now usually a bit player off the bench, scored all 16 of his points in the fourth quarter and Penny Hardaway had his first playoff triple-double as the Phoenix Suns, down by 10 points after three periods, rallied to beat the Spurs 101-94.
"Todd Day hit the big 3s," San Antonio's Terry Porter said. "He was the X-factor. We didn't expect him to do that."
San Antonio's Tim Duncan, still unable to play because of torn cartilage in his left knee, watched again in street clothes as the Suns took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Phoenix can advance to the second round for the first time in five years with a home-court victory on Tuesday.
"We got really lucky," Hardaway said. "They basically let us back in. They were up 10 points going into the fourth quarter, and I know they're kicking themselves right now saying, 'We should have finished it.'"
Day said he's never felt appreciated by the Suns this season.
"I may have done some nice things while I'm here, but I never felt I received the compliments I deserved for helping us win, not for being a superstar or anything like that, but contributing," Day said. "I just hope the next game my name gets called a little earlier and I can do the same thing."
David Robinson almost single-handedly kept the Spurs alive with 37 points, three short of his career playoff high, and 13 rebounds, but he scored only four points in the fourth quarter against the tough defense of the much smaller Cliff Robinson.
Hardaway, who had been bothered by a sore knee in practice, had 17 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds -- only his fourth career triple-double while playing all but one minute of the game. In the fourth quarter, with Kevin Johnson on the bench, Hardaway played point guard. His penetrations to the basket cleared the way for Day's open 3-pointers.
"That's what they need from me," Hardaway said. "They need me to play almost 48 minutes, and it didn't feel like it."
Day, who played 13 minutes and scored six points in the first two games, was 4-for-9 from the field in the fourth quarter, including 3-of-6 3-pointers, and was 5-of-6 from the free-throw line with four rebounds, three offensive.
Six Suns scored in double figures. Shawn Marion had 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Rodney Rogers scored 15 points, Cliff Robinson 14 and Kevin Johnson 10.
San Antonio scored the last 13 points of the third quarter to lead 79-69.
"Up by 10 you think you've got the game pretty well in hand," David Robinson said. "To have your team fall apart like that is very disappointing."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pointed to Phoenix's 13 offensive rebounds in the second half and the Suns' 25 points off turnovers.
"The 13 offensive rebounds they got in the second half fundamentally was the killer for us," Popovich said.
Day's tip-in cut it to 87-86, then he hit the first of two free throws to tie it at 87 with 4:26 to play. The second free throw misfired, but Cliff Robinson tipped the ball back out to Day, who hit a 3-pointer to put Phoenix ahead 90-87 with 3:16 remaining.
'Whether we're up 20 or down 20, if I'm open I feel like I'm going to take the shot,' Day said. 'They brought me on the team for my scoring ability. That's what I'm here for.'
Mario Elie's 3-pointer with 1:36 to go tied it one last time at 94-94. But Day hit his third 3-pointer with 1:19 to go to make it 97-94. Cliff Robinson added an inside basket to make it 99-94, then blocked Samaki Walker's inside shot and the Suns clinched it at the free-throw line.
"Even when we win, it's not particularly pretty," Suns coach Scott Skiles said. "I thought we had great efforts from a lot of guys, across the board really, other than the first four or five minutes of the game."
Duncan has had limited workouts this week, but Popovich said he wasn't healthy enough to play in a game. Duncan, the MVP of last year's NBA Finals, missed the last four games of the regular season and all three playoff games.
The Spurs, down to 10 players with the loss of Jerome Kersey with a dislocated foot, scored the first 11 points of the game and were up 23-11 on Porter's third 3-pointer with 2:47 left in the quarter.
But Johnson came off the bench to replace Randy Livingston at point guard, and the Suns took off on a 22-8 run. Rogers' tip-in just before the buzzer put Phoenix up 50-49 at halftime.
Notes: Malik Rose went to the locker room for treatment after he
had some teeth knocked loose with 1:51 left in the first quarter,
then returned shortly thereafter. The Spurs' team doctor said
Rose's braces kept the teeth in. ... After missing their first
seven shots of the game, the Suns were 21-for-34 the rest of the
first half. ... The last playoff triple-double for Phoenix was by
Charles Barkley, who had 32 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds
against Chicago in the 1993 NBA Finals. ... The Suns had scored 72
and 70 in the first two games, their lowest-scoring playoff games