7:00 PM ET, May 1, 2005
FedExForum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM ET, May 1, 2005
FedExForum, Memphis, TN
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns are off and running in the NBA playoffs and show no signs of slowing down.
Joe Johnson scored a playoff-best 25 points, and the Suns swept the Memphis Grizzlies with a 123-115 victory Sunday night that put Phoenix into the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2000.
The team that ran through the regular season and earned the league's best record will now rest and wait before playing Dallas or Houston in the second round.
"We know it is important to prove this to ourselves," Suns guard Steve Nash said of winning with a run-and-gun style. "We do better with an underdog attitude. If we play with our backs against the wall, especially on the defensive end, we'll do pretty well."
It's the first sweep by the Suns in a best-of-seven series and their first since the 1995 playoffs when they took Portland 3-0 in a best-of-five opening round.
"This is the first time I have ever been on a team that swept another team," said Amare Stoudemire, who scored 18 points. "But like I said, it doesn't matter who we play in the next round, we are going to be ready for them."
Nash added 24 points and nine assists for the Suns, who outshot Memphis in the highest-scoring game of these playoffs 60.3 percent (38-of-63) to 50.6 percent (45-of-89). Shawn Marion also had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Jim Jackson had 19 points, and Quentin Richardson had 14.
"I think that we proved a lot to a lot of people in this series," Marion said. "Hopefully, we turned nonbelievers into believers tonight."
The Suns outrebounded Memphis 37-28 and had more trips to the free throw line (49) than Memphis made shots from the floor (45).
Pau Gasol matched his playoff-best with 28 points to lead the Grizzlies, who extended their NBA record to eight straight playoff losses. They will have to wait until next season to try for the young franchise's first postseason victory.
Memphis coach Mike Fratello tried to jumpstart his Grizzlies by telling the disruptive Bonzi Wells that he wouldn't be playing and not to bother sitting on the bench. Williams, perhaps in silent protest, wore a blue sweatband around his left biceps with Wells' No. 6 on it.
Fratello thought it worked.
"I thought I saw a genuine, for the first time in a long time, a genuine pull for each other. If you're going to go out, you want to go out swinging, and I thought the guys did that," Fratello said.
It didn't matter as the Suns finished off this series by averaging 113.75 points per game, a big jump from their league-best 110.4 average in the regular season.
"They can shoot the ball," Grizzlies center Lorenzen Wright said. "They have a good team. They can score. I have never played against a team who shot like that the whole series."
With empty seats scattered around the arena, it seemed the biggest question would be when the rest of the fans would start leaving as the Suns ran up and down the court and built a 19-point lead by the end of the first quarter.
The Suns had more fastbreak points in the quarter (16) than they'd had in either of the previous two games.
Stoudemire made a pair of free throws for Phoenix's biggest margin at 41-20 early in the second quarter.
"I don't care who you are playing, it's tough to come back when you are down that much," Williams said.
The Grizzlies, who lost forward Brian Cardinal to a sprained left knee with 5:35 left in the second, began chipping away at Phoenix's lead as the Suns finally cooled off. After hitting 12 of 18 in the first quarter, the Suns were only 7-of-18 in the second.
Williams dribbled off the final seconds before hitting a 13-foot jumper in front of Nash to pull the Grizzlies within 63-57 at the half. Williams opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, and Gasol's driving layup tied the game at 64.
Nash answered with a 16-footer and finished off a three-point play for a 67-64 lead. The Grizzlies got within three again, on Miller's jumper at 71-68 with 7:48 left in the third. That was as close as they'd get.
The Grizzlies kept trying to slow down Phoenix by grabbing, pushing and pulling at every chance. The Suns shrugged off even the most flagrant foul when Jones put his arm into Marion on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Marion went down hard, but the ball went in for a 100-89 lead.
But Memphis, a team that held Phoenix to just 95.5 points in four games in the regular season, couldn't do enough against the NBA's top-scoring team.
|FGM-FGA||38-63 (.603)||45-89 (.506)|
|3PM-3PA||11-24 (.458)||13-24 (.542)|
|FTM-FTA||36-49 (.735)||12-16 (.750)|
|Fast Break Points||25||7|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||32 (3/1)|