SAN ANTONIO (AP) -The high-scoring Phoenix Suns found an unusual way for evening their playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs - defense.
Kurt Thomas was given a surprise start and made it tougher for the Spurs' Tim Duncan as the Suns beat the Spurs 101-81 Tuesday to tie their second-round Western Conference playoff series 1-1.
``I think Tim is going to get the better of almost everybody, but when you can throw a guy like Kurt down there, make it more difficult on him, you don't have to double-team every time,'' Suns point guard Steve Nash said. ``It really makes the game a lot easier for us. It's amazing to have that sort of weapon where a guy can hold his own down there.''
Duncan finished with a team-best 29 points and 11 rebounds, but while the Suns are known for their league-leading offense, their defensive effort Tuesday keyed the win.
Game 3 is Saturday in San Antonio.
``I thought we were supposed to be the defensive team jumping into the playoffs against Phoenix, but they made us look like novices,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Game 2.
While the Suns, who averaged more than 110 points a game during the regular season, kept their typical offensive pace, they also played aggressive defense against the Spurs, who held opponents to an average of 90 points a game during the season. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs' top regular-season scorers behind Duncan, combined for 19 points on 8-of-23 shooting. Michael Finley added 11 points for the Spurs and Bruce Bowen had 13.
Thomas, in his 11th NBA season and his second with the Suns, started just 13 games during the regular season.
``He's a heck of a defender, always has been,'' Popovich said. ``I thought they went at each other pretty good.''
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said the play isn't always ``real pretty,'' but he hopes the Suns catch on to the need to ``gut it out and grind it out.''
The 6-foot-9 Thomas offered a great example of that in defending Duncan, the 6-11 All-Star.
``Tim had a good game, but he's going to,'' Suns guard Raja Bell said. ``He had to work for every basket that he got.''
Thomas added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 28 minutes Tuesday. The Suns are 8-0 with the lineup they started in Game 2.
``It definitely lets us know that we are capable of beating the Spurs, and it's going to be a battle,'' said Amare Stoudemire, who led the Suns with 27 points in the win. ``We've got to go to San Antonio. We've got to regain home advantage, and that's our plan.''
Duncan said the home court is overrated, and several teammates have in the past agreed, saying they have more focus and discipline on the road.
``I hate the term 'home-court advantage,''' Duncan said. ``In this point of the playoffs, you've got it, but it doesn't mean anything. You've got to go in there and protect what you have. Teams like this, they know how to win on the road.''
Phoenix was 28-13 on the road during the regular season, but the Spurs dropped just 10 home games.
``We just have to go in there and match the kind of energy they came out with today,'' Duncan said. ``I don't think we have to rely on our crowd or rely on our home court.''
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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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