The 2007 Western Conference Semifinals has always been a sore subject for the Suns, as a controversial ruling by the NBA benefitted the San Antonio Spurs to effectively end their season. According to Raja Bell, there may be more to the story.
Facing a Game 4 loss at home, Robert Horry took his frustration on a speedy Steve Nash on the sidelines at the end of the game, hip-checking him into the scorer's table. While the foul was needed to prolong the game with San Antonio down by three, there's no question the contact was excessive. So excessive that Boris Diaw and Amar'e Stoudemire left the bench to defend their fallen point guard.
At the time, the NBA was emphasizing to its teams that no one is allowed to leave the bench during scuffles, leading to Diaw and Stoudemire being suspended for a pivotal Game 5. Understandably, Suns fans felt shafted by the ruling, but Nash has since admitted there might've been some acting in his reaction.
In The Ringer's recent episode of Real Ones, Nash's teammate Raja Bell confirmed what he was told.
"Steve and I were out one day and he said something to the fact of him selling it," said Bell. "He had never said it to me before."
As someone on the court when it happened, Bell felt responsible for escalating the situation when he ran over. "I would not have run up on Horry," said Bell. "Me running over and getting the forearm in my chest is what really sets off the mini-scrum that happens."
Perhaps the Spurs would've won the series either way, but the fact that they narrowly squeaked by the Suns in Game 5 even without Diaw and Stoudemire available makes the what-if more interesting. Either way, it just shows how much of an impact one seemingly small choice can make on the basketball court.