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Nash leads hot-shooting Suns with 24 points

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.

Jason Williams had 20 points, Dahntay Jones added 14, Stromile
Swift and Mike Miller each had 13, James Posey 12 and Earl Watson
11.

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.

Game notes
The Suns, who set a franchise record with only five
turnovers in Game 3, had more turnovers through the first three
quarters than in any of their first three games in this series.
They finished with 20. ... Gasol had a playoff-best 16 rebounds in
Game 2, but he had only four on Sunday night. ... Phoenix had a
decided advantage at the free throw line in this series with 128
attempts compared to 68 for the Grizzlies.