EDS: UPDATES with quotes.
By ANDREW BAGNATO
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) -For one half, Shawn Marion made everyone forget that Amare Stoudemire wasn't around.
On a night the shorthanded Suns needed Marion to shine, the All-Star forward scored 20 points in the first half, going 8-of-11 from the field, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Then Marion disappeared, and so did the Suns, blowing a 16-point lead in an 88-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night to fall behind 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinals.
``I think their coach made an adjustment,'' Marion said of his second-half woes. ``They just took me out of the game.''
It wasn't all Marion's fault. He finished with a team-high 24 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, his sixth double-double of this postseason. But Marion's struggles seemed to underscore the Suns' second-half meltdown.
The Suns were without Stoudemire, the All-NBA first-team center, and forward Boris Diaw. The two violated an NBA rule by leaving the bench area after Robert Horry's flagrant foul on Steve Nash in the final seconds of Phoenix's 104-98 victory in Game 4, and were suspended for Game 5.
Horry was suspended two games for his actions.
``We were down two key players, and we played hard,'' said Suns reserve swingman James Jones, who scored nine points. ``We'll never give up. We feel like we can beat these guys.
``No one expected us to even compete tonight,'' Jones said. ``And no one expects us to win Game 6, either.''
Game 6 is Friday night at San Antonio.
Without the 6-foot-10 Stoudemire, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni went with a smaller, quicker lineup. And for one half it worked beautifully as the quick-footed Marion found plenty of room to roam without Stoudemire in the paint.
With the Suns trailing 9-4, Marion dunked, then hit a layup on a nifty feed from Nash, igniting the U.S. Airways Center crowd.
Marion added two more dunks and a 3-pointer, all part of a 20-2 run that gave the Suns a 24-11 lead with 1:50 to go in the opening quarter.
Marion said he didn't come into the game looking to be more aggressive, but it certainly looked that way.
``I only can control so many things,'' Marion said. ``Some nights I get some good looks. I was just getting involved. My teammates were looking for me a little bit more, and I got the opportunities. When I get the opportunities, I can contribute.''
Meanwhile, Kurt Thomas was quietly turning in a strong performance as an emergency fill-in for Stoudemire. Thomas had 15 points and 12 rebounds and kept San Antonio's Tim Duncan from dominating inside.
The Suns' lead grew to 16 points in the second quarter, but they couldn't sustain it.
``We were pretty one-dimensional with the way we played tonight without Boris and Amare,'' D'Antoni said. ``We kept trying to go to the well and just didn't get it done going down to the end.''
Marion didn't have a field goal in the second half until 2:10 remained, when he hit a driving layup to give the Suns an 81-79 lead.
With the game tied at 81-81 in the final minute, Marion missed a 5-footer in traffic. Then he clanked a wide-open 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 24 seconds to go.
Marion wasn't the only Sun who couldn't find the basket in the waning minutes. The Suns looked like a tired team. Three starters - Marion, Nash and Raja Bell - each logged more than 45 minutes, and Thomas played 36, double his regular-season average.
``Even though guys were playing extended minutes, you can't even think about it,'' Thomas said. ``It was right there for the taking. We'll be back at full strength for Game 6. We've just got to keep our heads up and keep playing.''
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