PHOENIX, April 24 (Ticker) --
The Phoenix Suns didn't plan on slowing down in the postseason. It remains to be seen if anyone else can slow them down, either.
With Steve Nash
at the controls, the Suns continued their season-long sprint with a 114-103 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the opener of their Western Conference first-round series.
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had 26 points, 13 rebounds and one scary fall for the top-seeded Suns, who kept the pedal to the metal as hard as they did in the regular season, when they led the NBA in scoring (110 points per game) and wins (62).
Entering the postseason, many believed the Suns would see their relentless running game limited, forcing them to slow down and use more halfcourt sets. However, the eighth-seeded Grizzlies had no success in that area.
"We are going to play that way," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
said. "We can play that way and it does work. If we D it up and rebound, we can be pretty damn good. As everyone says, the key is defensive rebounding, and sometimes we relax and have mental breakdowns. But the style of play does not dictate if you can't play defense. There is no reason why we can't run and fire them up."
The Suns ran at every opportunity, scoring 25 fast-break points and sinking 15-of-32 3-pointers. Phoenix had five players in double figures, including reserve center Steven Hunter
, who scored a playoff career-high 16 points.
"You can say what you want to about the 3-point line, but you still have to make the shot," Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello
said. "To stop them, you have to rebound first, run back second, know who is guarding who. It is not like there is an easy answer solving what they do because they do it so well."
Nash handed out 13 assists and scored 11 points. The All-Star
point guard, who heard chants of "MVP" from the America West
Arena crowd, directed the offense to 39 points in the first
quarter, when the Suns made 7-of-8 shots from the arc and took the lead for good.
"They made their shots in the first quarter and we knew they would with the excitement of the building," Grizzlies guard Mike Miller
said. "They scored entirely too many points in the first quarter and it is tough when you start in a hole like that. After that every time we made a push, they made big shots."
The only time the Grizzlies appeared to be in the game was when
Nash was out of it. They made a push in the second period
before Nash returned to help rebuild the lead to 59-50 at
Memphis closed to 81-76 late in the third quarter before Phoenix
widened the lead to 87-78 entering the final period, this time
with Nash on the bench.
"We were teasing ourselves," Fratello said. "We stayed in striking distance but never got the big stop that we needed."
Backup Leandro Barbosa
made a 3-pointer for a 96-84 bulge and was replaced by Nash at the 7:24 mark. Nash made a 3-pointer with 5:27 left, then added the finishing touches with a 35-foot lob pass that Amaré Stoudemire
hammered home while drawing a foul for a 107-91 lead with 4:18 remaining.
scored 22 points and Joe Johnson
added 16 for
the Suns, who host Game 2 on Wednesday and fully intend to
press the pace.
"We kind of expect we will get some open shots," Richardson said. "They help out a lot so a lot of times you catch guys running at you and trying to rotate out of the rotation. We just honed in tonight and hit some big shots."
Miller made five 3-pointers and scored 19 points for the Grizzlies, who dropped to 0-5 all-time in the postseason. Jason Williams
added 17 points and Pau Gasol
In the regular season, Memphis held Phoenix below 100 points three times. It was thought to have an advantage with its 10-deep rotation compared to Phoenix's shorter bench, but held just a 38-30 edge in bench points.
"I think we do have depth," Hunter said. "We have Leandro Barbosa, who does a great job for us with his speed. Jimmy Jackson
is a veteran who can score and myself. I can come in and supply energy, block some shots and play some defense. I don't think you win 63 games without having a bench."
Hunter made 7-of-11 shots and shattered his previous playoff high of four, helping Phoenix to a 19-9 advantage in second-chance points.
"I just wanted to come out with a lot of energy," Hunter said. "I saw Amaré struggling out there because Memphis really packs the lane. I wanted to go out there and get some hustle points and play good defense."
About the only thing that slowed down the Suns was Marion's frightening tumble. His 3-pointer gave Phoenix a 72-59 lead and was looking to add more when he elevated on a drive and was fouled by Shane Battier
Marion tried to break his fall and nearly broke his right wrist. He remained down for a couple of minutes but shook it off and made 1-of-2 free throws as Battier was called for a flagrant foul.