PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Regarded by many as the favorite to win the
NBA title, the Phoenix Suns begin the postseason with Sunday's
Western Conference first-round series opener against the Memphis
Sparked by a desire to run the fast break at every opportunity,
the Suns were the league's highest-scoring team (110.4) - 13
points better than than the league average - and recorded 33
more victories than last season.
After spending six years with the Dallas Mavericks, Steve Nash
came back to Phoenix and led the league in assists (11.5) to
emerge a serious contender for NBA Most Valuable Player.
Capitalizing on Nash's presence, Amare Stoudemire ranked sixth
in the league in scoring (26.0) and second in field-goal
shooting percentage (55.9). He was the only player in the top
10 in both categories.
While the Suns seemed to score at will this season, they had
their problems with the Grizzlies, who held Phoenix to an
average of 89 points in their last three meetings.
After coach Hubie Brown abruptly resigned in December, Mike
Fratello led Memphis to a 40-26 record and led the team to the
fourth-best defense in the league (91.1), holding 66 opponents
under 100 points.
Leading scorer Pau Gasol, who missed nearly two months with
plantar fasciitis, played 17 games since his return in mid-March
and gradually is returning to form for the Grizzlies, who have
lost five of their last six.
Phoenix got 28 points from Joe Johnson and 16 rebounds from
Shawn Marion in a 97-91 triumph over Memphis on March 20 to earn
a split of their four encounters.