PHOENIX (AP)—Phoenix took away Tony Parker’s easy layups just like it wanted to. So he just made jump shot after jump shot after jump shot.
The smooth San Antonio point guard burned the Suns for a career-high 41 points along with 12 assists and the Spurs rolled to a 115-99 victory Friday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
This was supposed to be a spectacular first-round matchup of potential NBA champions. Instead, it’s been a Spurs smackdown, with Parker leading the way.
“They were backing off on the pick-and-rolls,” he said, “so I just took the shot, and it felt good tonight.”
Everything felt good for the defending NBA champions, who never trailed in winning their ninth consecutive playoff game and 13th of 14, dating to last season.
“We possibly played our best game of the year,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
San Antonio can complete the sweep on Sunday in Phoenix. No NBA team has come back from 0-3 to win a series.
It’s the first three-game losing streak for the Suns this season.
“They were almost perfect,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We didn’t play well, and I’ll take the blame for that, but you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They played great.”
Phoenix acquired Shaquille O’Neal to better match up with the Spurs, but the Suns are one loss away from being swept in a seven-game series for the first time since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in the 1988-89 Western Conference finals.
But Parker did the most damage, often on the pick-and-roll that has flustered Phoenix all series. With three different defenders trying to stop him, he finished 17-of-26 from the field.
The ultra-quick Frenchman scored 26 points in Game 1 and 32 in Game 2.
“Tony has been very aggressive and just done a great job at both ends of the floor,” Popovich said. “He’s just been phenomenal. I don’t know what else to say about him.”
The Suns cut the lead to 13 points twice in the fourth quarter, the last on Raja Bell’s 3-pointer with 7:35 to play, but Parker countered with his first 3 of the game and the Suns were finished.
“We just played great. Sometimes that happens,” Parker said. “It just clicked tonight. We played great on defense and everybody made shots.”
The packed house in the Suns’ first home game of the playoffs booed Popovich’s “Hack-a-Shaq” tactics in the first half, but they turned on the home team when the Spurs took a 23-point lead on Ginobili’s 3-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
Amare Stoudemire had 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead Phoenix, which was last swept in a series when Portland did it in a best-of-five matchup in 1998-99. Leandro Barbosa scored 20 points and O’Neal, who finished 9-for-17 from the free throw line, had 19. Steve Nash, defended ferociously by Bruce Bowen, had seven points on 3-of-8 shooting with nine assists.
Phoenix took big early leads in the first two games in San Antonio. The Spurs were in control of this one from the start.
San Antonio made 10 of its first 13 shots, including five of six jumpers by Parker. A 17-4 outburst capped by Parker’s 22-footer put the Spurs up 27-12.
Popovich went to the “Hack-a-Shaq” ploy, having Jacque Vaughn foul the big guy three straight times late in the first. O’Neal was called for crossing the free throw line on his first two tries, missed his next two, then made one of two.
Kurt Thomas, a surprise starter, converted a three-point play with .3 seconds left in the first quarter to put San Antonio up 33-19.
Barbosa scored 10 quick points as Phoenix cut the lead to 37-31 with 8:05 left in the half, but the Spurs scored the next seven points.
Popovich returned to purposely fouling O’Neal late in the second quarter after Brent Barry’s 3-pointer put San Antonio ahead 57-43 with 58 seconds left in the half.
O’Neal made three of four free throws, but Parker’s driving layup at the buzzer put the Spurs up 61-47.
Parker scored the first five points of the second half, including a three-point play that made it 66-47. Consecutive outside jumpers by Duncan put the Spurs up 70-50, and the boos began.
Columnists at both local newspapers ran said in Friday’s editions that D’Antoni’s job could be in jeopardy if the team flops in the first round. … The Suns’ Grant Hill, nursing a sore groin, didn’t start but played 20 minutes. … Thomas, in his third start of the season, second for San Antonio, scored nine points.