SAN ANTONIO - The Suns thought their small lineup, featuring Boris Diaw at center, would have good success against the Spurs, and they were right. They just didn't plan on having to use Diaw against the Spurs' big lineup quite as much.
But when Shaquille O'Neal went to the bench with two fouls just 3:47 into the game, Diaw checked in and was charged with chasing Tim Duncan around for the rest of the first half.
He and Leandro Barbosa combined to contribute 18 first-half points and seven rebounds as the Suns built a 16-point lead midway through the second quarter. But Duncan had his way inside on the smaller Diaw, pounding his way to 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
"We got some points and made them double-team; it worked pretty well," Diaw said. "We didn't want Shaq to get in foul trouble, but we went to different things and a different style and we adapted well. The problem was Tim scored a lot when I was guarding him, but we were still leading and doing well."
The Suns tried Brian Skinner for two minutes late in the first half. But he not only had little success defensively, the Spurs sent him to the line twice in a six-second span to take advantage of his poor foul shooting (52 percent this year).
"(The Spurs) did 'Hack-a-Shaq' late in the game, but before that they did 'Hack-a-Skinny,'" Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.
After Duncan had tied the score with a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first overtime, Diaw still had a chance to win it for Phoenix. But his 11-foot turnaround jumper missed.
"I got tripped (while pivoting) or I tripped myself a little bit. I was off-balance and pretty much shot it on one foot," Diaw said.
Count Manu Ginobili among those scratching their heads at the Suns' decision not to foul him before he found Tim Duncan for the game-tying 3-pointer in the first overtime. The Suns also didn't foul Michael Finley before he tied the score with 15 seconds left in regulation with a 3-pointer.
"I come from an environment where we all foul," Ginobili said. "But I guess sometimes you have to go with the percentages. A contested (3-pointer), it's about 25 percent. So sometimes you try that, I guess."
D'Antoni said Finley's 3-pointer hurt more because the Suns were supposed to switch after the Spurs set a pick on Leandro Barbosa - freeing Finley for the shots.
"With Tim, you have to say 'Hey that happens' and he hit an unbelievable shot," he said. "With Finley, you kind of know he can do that, so we should have swallowed him up and not let him look at it."
Grant Hill, who came into the playoffs bothered by a groin injury, played only 28 minutes in the double-overtime game (five points, seven rebounds). He came in with six minutes left to give Tony Parker another look defensively, but lasted less than four minutes before D'Antoni went back to Barbosa.
Hill played less than a minute in the two overtime periods.
The Suns are now 0-3 under D'Antoni in Game 1 of a playoff series against the Spurs (2005, 2007 and 2008). They are a combined 6-0 against all other teams.
Phoenix had won the first game of the postseason seven straight times. Their last loss in the opening game of the playoffs was May 8, 1999, to Portland (95-85).
Winning Game 1 might not be what the Spurs wanted. In both 2005 and 2007, they lost their first playoff game, at home (both times to Denver) and went on to win their third and fourth NBA titles.
Skinner had his ejection and accompanying $3,000 fine from the league rescinded on Friday. He and Portland's Jarrett Jack were kicked out in the second quarter Wednesday's season finale. Jack's ejection and fine was also rescinded.
Robert Horry took part in his first practice in almost a month Friday and was dressed for the game. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Horry and another hobbled veteran, Brent Barry, would likely play only in an emergency in Game 1.
But with everyone but Duncan shooting horribly for the Spurs in the first half, Popovich went to Barry - who played 10 minutes and scored four points.