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A Kidd Shall Lead Them
SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 22 (AP) -- After an ugly game, the Phoenix Suns were looking good.

Shawn Marion scored 21 points and Jason Kidd had 18 points and 14 assists as Phoenix beat the Sacramento Kings 86-83 Sunday in the opener of their playoff series.

Cliff Robinson
Cliff Robinson loses control of the ball while driving to the hole Sunday.
Aric Crabb/NBAE Photos
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Phoenix won the first game of a playoff series for the first time since 1997 by crippling the Kings' free-flowing offense with tough defense and deliberate, unflashy play.

Sacramento, the league's highest-scoring team and best home team, was unprepared to play the Suns' style, and the Kings lost for just the ninth time all season at Arco Arena.

Rodney Rogers scored 18 points and hit two big jumpers during a 10-2 Phoenix run late in the fourth quarter. The boisterous crowd was silenced by the sixth-seeded Suns, who broke open a close game by holding the Kings to 6-of-28 shooting in the fourth quarter.

Rogers' 3-pointer 2:54 left gave Phoenix an 85-76 lead, but the Kings scored the next seven points, pulling within 85-83 on Doug Christie's steal and dunk. Cliff Robinson missed a jumper with 12 seconds left, but Kidd emerged from a crowd of three Kings with an offensive rebound, then hit one of two free throws.

After a timeout, Jason Williams inexplicably airballed an off-balance 3-pointer with five seconds still on the clock. Rogers dribbled out the time as the demoralized Kings didn't even foul him.

hornets
The Suns run the floor:
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Chris Webber, clearly limited by his sore ankles, had 27 points and 15 rebounds as the Kings opened a playoff series at home for the first time in two decades with a dull, disorganized performance.

Meanwhile, the Suns concentrated on their defense and relied on almost nothing except jumpers by Kidd, Rogers and Marion, who decisively outplayed Peja Stojakovic. Robinson added 16 points, also mostly from the perimeter, for the Suns.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Sacramento.

Until Phoenix's late run, neither team led by more than seven points in a slow, deliberate game. Sacramento spent much of the game uncharacteristically trying to get the ball to Webber in the low post, with mostly negative results.

Webber, who went 12-of-32 from the field, often seemed unable to jump on his ankles, which he sprained during a late-season game in Dallas.

In front of a frenzied Arco Arena crowd decked out in 17,000 giveaway white T-shirts, the Kings shot 34.8 percent and struggled to score even the simplest baskets. Webber made seven turnovers, while Vlade Divac was held to four points on 1-of-5 shooting after halftime.

Marion's 21 points were a career playoff-high, but more importantly, he got 10 rebounds and held Stojakovic to 13 points -- seven below his average -- on 5-of-17 shooting.

Notes: The Suns and the Kansas City Kings met in the playoffs three straight seasons from 1979-81, but haven't met since. ... In time-honored Sacramento tradition, fans rang cowbells behind the Suns' bench. ... Arco was filled with signs, from "2001: A Kings Odyssey" to the more esoteric "Why Not Now?" ... The Kings made their fifth postseason appearance in 16 years in Sacramento.

 
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