Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Date: Oct. 28, 2003
Location: SBC Center in San Antonio
For the San Antonio Spurs, the 2003-04 season began with dynasty thoughts running rampant through the Alamo City.
Just months removed from dethroning the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs had scaled the game's ultimate summit with a six-game series victory of the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals. Tim Duncan was already making his case as the greatest power forward in league history, while Tony Parker was looking to build on his breakthrough sophomore campaign (15.5 points and 5.3 assists per game).
As for the Phoenix Suns, this was their chance to help solidify their standing in the upper half of the Western Conference. Just two years prior, Phoenix had snapped a 13-year playoff run but rebounded in 2002-03 with a 44-win season that vaulted them back into postseason play.
A rising core of Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson had Suns fans setting their sights even higher on the West's pecking order.
Those lofty expectations looked validated when the Suns stormed out of the gate and sprinted to a 16-2 lead just seven minutes into the game. But San Antonio methodically chipped away at Phoenix's lead over the next 17 minutes and had whittled it down to just four points by intermission.
The Suns built their advantage back to double digits three different times in the third quarter, but the Spurs closed the period on an 8-0 run to leave just a one-point deficit, 68-87, on the scoreboard heading into the fourth.
The next 10-plus minutes saw a back-and-forth tussle for the edge, but the Spurs still hadn't found their way to the right side of the score. Marbury split a pair of free throws to give Phoenix an 82-79 lead with less than 90 seconds left in regulation, but Bruce Bowen answered with a shot from close range to make it a one-point game.
Anthony Carter, playing in place of the injured Parker, stole a Zarko Cabarkapa pass on the Suns' ensuing possession, but couldn't convert the possible go-ahead shot from five feet. San Antonio corralled the rebound, but Bruce Bowen misfired from 18 feet. Carter, just 6'1" and 190 pounds, snagged the offensive rebound and converted on the third chance of the trip to give the Spurs just their second lead of the game.
Marbury fired off a pair of mid-range shots on the Suns' final possession, and Penny Hardaway attempted another, but all three missed their mark.
Despite leading for just 50.4 seconds in the entire game, the Spurs squeaked out of the contest with an 83-82 win. Duncan finished the game with 24 points, 12 boards, six blocks and four assists, while Marbury led the way for the Suns with 24 points, seven rebounds and six dimes.