Take that Memphis, and anyone else who doubts the Phoenix Suns know how to get physical.
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 Western Conference series.
“I saw him the whole time and when I jumped, he kind of pushed me back and probably took about two inches off my vert, but I still managed to use my 38-inch (vertical jump),” the 6-10 Stoudemire said. “I’m not a huge trash-talker, unless you talk trash to me.”
His teammates appreciated the effort.
“Anytime somebody dunks on somebody, you’re going to get pumped up,” Suns forward Shawn Marion said. “He dunked on him hard.”
No team has ever won a series after trailing 3-0, and now the Grizzlies risk being swept from the playoffs for a second straight year.
“You can’t have guys thinking about going fishing,” Memphis center Lorenzen Wright said. “We have to play playoff basketball. I believe that we can win. I don’t want to get swept again. We played better at Phoenix than we did at home, that is not how you play basketball.”
Wright led Memphis with 14 points. Pau Gasol and Mike Miller had 13 apiece, and Shane Battier and Jason Williams scored 10 each. Gasol had only three rebounds after playoff-bests of 28 points and 16 rebounds in Game 2.
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.
“I think that we have shown we can do both,” Stoudemire said. “We can slow it down and play inside out, or we can run and gun and shoot the lights out. So pick your poison.”
The Grizzlies felt the time finally had arrived for the franchise’s first playoff victory. 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.
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 missing an early slam.
Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni anticipated a furious start by Memphis and had cautioned his Suns to weather the early excitement.
“They shot no telling how many layups and shot about 80 percent,” D’Antoni said. “The guys just honed in and played defense and had a great second quarter, and that kind of got us over the hump.”
With the Suns clutching and grabbing, the Grizzlies cooled off and missed nine of their next 12 shots.
“We stopped them from doing whatever they wanted to do out there,” Marion said. “Next thing you know, we’re up by 15, then 20 and it’s over with.”
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.
Stoudemire, coming off a playoff-best 34 points in Game 2, personified the Suns’ physical approach with his pounding dunk over 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.
“We didn’t have the drive and the same determination the rest of the game,” Memphis coach Mike Fratello said.
The Suns had swept a handful of first-round series when the round was just three games. … The Grizzlies can’t complain about not getting to the free-throw line as often as Phoenix. The Suns had 21 more attempts in Game 2 than Memphis, but the discrepancy was only five in Game 3. Phoenix was 13-of-21 with Memphis going 13-of-18. … Wells, who probably will be leaving this offseason, finished with six points in nine minutes.