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NBA PLAYOFFS Suns beat Grizzlies for 3-0 lead in series



Published: Sat, April 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Amare Stoudemire had 30 points as Phoenix scored a 110-90 victory.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns are showing they can mix in some muscle with their finesse.

Amare Stoudemire scored 30 points, and the Suns rolled over the Memphis Grizzlies 110-90 Friday night for the franchise's first 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. A victory here Sunday night would give Phoenix a sweep of the opening-round Eastern Conference series.

Joe Johnson scored 20 points and reserve Jim Jackson added 17 for Phoenix. Shawn Marion added 14 points and 13 rebounds, Steve Nash had 13 points and eight assists.

Lorenzen Wright led Memphis with 14 points. Pau Gasol and Mike Miller had 13 apiece, and Shane Battier and Jason Williams scored 10 each.

Suns handle physical play

The knock on the Suns despite their NBA-leading 62 victories in the regular season was that they couldn't handle physical play from bigger opponents, preferring to sprint up and down the floor.

The Grizzlies felt the time finally had arrived for the franchise's first playoff victory after seven straight losses. They thought they had only themselves to blame in losing Game 2 108-103 on Wednesday night and expected their frenzied fans to provide the edge the team lacked in Phoenix.

What they found out is that the Suns can push back pretty hard when they want without affecting the NBA's best offense.

Grizzlies started quick

The Grizzlies got the start they wanted, hitting eight of their first 10 shots and leading 24-15. The Suns couldn't find the basket in the opening minutes and missed their first eight shots. Stoudemire finished the quarter with 11 points after struggling early and even missing a slam.

Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni anticipated a furious start by Memphis and had cautioned his Suns to weather the early excitement.

They did that easily.

With the Suns clutching and grabbing, the Grizzlies cooled off and missed nine of their next 12 shots.

The Suns took their first lead at 31-30 on a jumper by Johnson with 5 seconds left in the quarter, part of a 24-6 surge that ended with a Johnson 3-pointer from the right corner for a 49-36 lead with 5:28 left in the second quarter.

Dunk sets tempo

Stoudemire, coming off a playoff-best 34 points in Game 2, personified the Suns' physical approach when he soared up near the basket and tomahawk-chopped a dunk over the 6-foot-9 Stromile Swift in the second quarter.

The Suns led 57-47 at halftime and never let the lead dip below double digits in the second half as they finally blew out the pesky Grizzlies. They led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter with half the sellout crowd already headed home.

Memphis coach Mike Fratello, desperate to jumpstart his Grizzlies, put Bonzi Wells into the game with 5:25 left in the third. James Posey hit a 3-pointer to pull within 11 points, then Wells missed the next two shots.




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