MEMPHIS, Tenn., March 20 (Ticker) --
The Phoenix Suns rebounded from a
bad loss by clinching a playoff berth with a win over a
potential postseason foe.
scored 28 points, including a huge 3-pointer in the
final minute, to lift the Suns to a 97-91 victory over the
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The Suns entered the game in second place in the Western
Conference but were coming off a home loss to Golden State.
Although seventh in the West, the Grizzlies had won two of three
from the Suns, who would be their first-round opponent if the
Phoenix led, 91-88, when Johnson took a kick-out from Steve Nash
and sank a 3-pointer to double the lead with 32 seconds to
answered from the arc, but the Grizzlies came up
empty the rest of the way and Nash closed things out with three
"I just read Steve," Johnson said. "I read Steve on
pick-and-rolls and try to make myself open so he can have a
kick-out guy. He found me and I knocked down the shot."
"Joe was huge for us tonight," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
"He plays 44 minutes and guards their best player. The shot he
made with 30 seconds left was huge."
Johnson, who made 10-of-15 shots including 4-of-5 from the arc,
is averaging 21 points in his last three starts against Memphis
but didn't make much of the possibility of a first-round playoff
"There's no one team we want to play in the playoffs," Johnson
said. "If this team is in our path when the playoffs come
around, then we just have to handle it and take care of
Nash added 13 points and 13 assists for the Suns, who continue
to thrive on the road. The win was Phoenix's league-leading
26th on the road this season and came on the strength of 88
points from the starters.
"It's hard when everybody's got the green light," Grizzlies
center Lorenzen Wright
said. "They all have the green light to
shoot for three every time, and they make them. When you're
hitting twos and they're hitting threes, eventually they're
going to pull off. They hit some big threes in this game to win
Phoenix closed the third quarter on a 15-6 run to take a 79-73
advantage, then opened a nine-point lead on a pair of free
throws by Johnson with 9:20 left. Memphis scored the next seven
points but never got any closer.
"We had some looks down the stretch, but just didn't execute,"
Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello
said. "We were settling for shots
that weren't there. Give Phoenix credit, they keep coming at
you and put pressure on you."
Phoenix, which shot 49 percent (37-of-76), outscored Memphis,
32-7, on the fast break.
"We knew they were going to get out and run," Miller said. "We
have to get back and make them take contested shots, not layups
and dunks. When they throw it up and finish with dunks, it's
hard to keep them shooting a low percentage."
"I didn't think that we were in synch at all out there,"
scored 18 points, Amare Stoudemire
and Shawn Marion
14 and 16 rebounds for Phoenix, which
outrebounded Memphis, 47-30.
"We won on defense and toughness tonight," D'Antoni said. "We
won the right way, so to speak."
scored 20 points and Wright added 19 for Memphis
(38-28), which shot 45 percent
Forward Pau Gasol
returned to Memphis' lineup after 23 games on
the injured list. The 7-footer played 12 minutes and scored the
first four points of an 11-2 run that opened the second quarter.