The Arizona Republic
By PAUL CORO
The Arizona Republic
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It’s as if the playoffs never started.
A team throws everything at Phoenix. The unwavering Suns weave through it all.
A team thinks it can score on Phoenix as if the NBA hardwood were a park playground. The Suns pull away like a dragster.
A team gets desperate. Phoenix stays breezy cool and blows its challenger away.
Memphis got four looks at this NBA season’s most successful team and never got any more comfortable, losing convincingly again in Phoenix’s 123-115 Game 4 win and sweep of the first-round series yesterday.
The Suns closed out Memphis on the road and get plenty of rest at home. It could be six to nine days before Phoenix hosts Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series against the winner of the Dallas-Houston series, which is tied entering tonight’s Game 5.
“I’ll be getting massages, sitting by the pool and drinking lemonade until round two,” Suns center Amaré Stoudemire said.
Memphis had held Phoenix to fewer than 100 points per game in the final three regular-season games.
But, reeling to its second straight playoff sweep and loser of nine of its past 10, Memphis saw Phoenix rattle off more 100-point games (four) than the Suns had in their previous 27 playoff games (three).
“To me, it was the culmination of everything happening all year,” Suns president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said. “Somebody is down, somebody else picks it up. Shawn Marion gets knocked down (on a Dahntay Jones flagrant foul). Guys run over to pick him up. You never know what to expect when the playoffs start, but the consistency with this team has been there all year.”
The Grizzlies’ last gasp was a small lineup. It didn’t work. The Suns took advantage, hitting 60.3 percent of their shots.
“They were just running by us,” Memphis coach Mike Fratello said.
It was more like a Game 1 replica. Phoenix went back to leaning on three-pointers, knocking down six of eight in the first quarter to storm out to a 39-20 lead. Joe Johnson was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 16 of his 25 points off a dazzling mix of shots.
“You eventually think they’re going to miss, but they just keep making them,” Fratello said after Phoenix made 11 of 24 treys.
The Suns stretched their lead to as many as 21, running off to the game’s first 22 fast-break points. They were more aggressive, starting the trend that sent them to the line for 49 foul shots to Memphis’ 16.
But the Grizzlies tied the score at the start of the third quarter, only to immediately miss 11 of13 shots. Memphis hung close and dug in hard on a late possession in a five-point game with hands all over Phoenix bodies until Quentin Richardson missed a three-pointer that Marion followed with a left-handed scoop for a three-point play.
Moments later, Richardson gave Phoenix a 10-point lead with 1:15 to go with a trey – and a finger over his lips, hushing Memphis to its final slumber.
“Hopefully, we’ve got a long ways to go,” guard Steve Nash said.
To the rack
Richardson has shown more aggressiveness with his drives recently, giving the prolific three-point shooter more of a mix when combined with his post-up ability.
“You spend the whole season, hit the most threes, and you just pump-fake guys,” he said. “It’s a lot easier for you to attack them when they’re expecting you to do one thing.”
Wells doesn’t dress
The question about the limited playing time of Memphis reserve Bonzi Wells was answered before Game 4. Fratello said Wells, whose playing time had become a distraction after he didn’t play in Game 2, would not dress for the game.
Fratello said it was a mutual agreement.
“Bonzi and I decided the best thing for the team would be that he would not be on the bench in uniform,” Fratello said, acknowledging that Wells was not involved in the team’s shootaround yesterday.
“Basically, the decision was made that in the best interest of the team, that’s the way we thought it would best be handled.”
Team could train here
Because of a conflict with Northern Arizona’s football schedule, the Phoenix Suns will not hold training camp in Flagstaff this October.
The team is considering a few options, but Tucson, managing owner Robert Sarver’s hometown, is looking like the most likely destination.
The Suns’ following in Tucson has grown with the team’s success and Sarver’s and investor-adviser Steve Kerr’s ties to the team. Radio ratings have risen in Tucson, although only half the city’s cable subscribers get Suns’ telecasts. The games are not shown on Comcast cable.
- The Arizona Republic