So while the Portland Trail Blazers were focused on Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash(notes), Richardson came up big for the third time in the first-round series, scoring 28 points in a 99-90 Game 6 victory Thursday night.
The win sends the third-seeded Suns into the second round against seventh-seeded San Antonio, which advanced by beating Dallas 97-97 earlier Thursday night. The opening game of the Western Conference semifinals is Monday night in Phoenix.
Richardson had 29 points in the Suns’ 119-90 victory in Game 2 before scoring a career playoff-high 42 in a 108-89 win in Game 3.
“Everybody knows what Steve can do, and everybody knows what Amare can do. I’m just trying to be that wild card, that third scorer, and help us get wins and try to go deep into the playoffs,” Richardson said.
The Suns last went to the second round in 2007, when they got past the Los Angeles Lakers to open the playoffs before falling to the Spurs. In 2008, the Spurs got the best of Phoenix in the first round.
Since the 2002-03 season, the Spurs have eliminated the Suns from the postseason four times.
The Suns went up 53-41 at halftime and led by as many as 16 points in the second half. The Blazers tied it at 76 midway through the fourth quarter, but could not pull ahead.
After Leandro Barbosa’s(notes) bank shot, Jerryd Bayless(notes) hit a long jumper that pulled Portland within one. Amare Stoudemire fouled LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), who made one of two free throws to tie it at 76.
Stoudemire’s layup prevented Portland from taking the lead, and Goran Dragic(notes) added a basket to put the Suns in front 80-76. Phoenix extended it on two consecutive layups and a 3-pointer from Richardson to make it 87-78 with 4:36 left.
Steve Nash sealed it with a 3-pointer that gave the Suns a 92-82 lead.
Stoudemire finished with 22 points for the Suns, while Nash, who said afterward that he had been battling a hip injury since Game 2, had 10 points.
Richardson made five of eight 3-point attempts.
“J-Rich definitely shot the ball extremely well from the outside and he created for us,” Stoudemire said. “He’s been a great addition to this team, a great help in the playoffs, and hopefully we can see that great play continue in the next series.”
Brandon Roy(notes) had 14 points for the Blazers in his first start of the series. Portland’s three-time All-Star had arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee two days before the series against the Suns opened.
He was originally ruled out of the first round, but unexpectedly came back for Game 4, which the Blazers won 96-87 at the Rose Garden.
Roy had 10 points in that game, then got just five in Portland’s 107-88 Game 5 loss in Phoenix, but he was coming off the bench—which he said made him uncomfortable.
Roy said that after all the team had been through, he wanted to finish on the court and not on the bench.
“I was happy I was able to play,” he said. “I wasn’t able to play as well as I liked. I didn’t have quite the bounce that I needed but at least I can go into the summertime knowing that I’m healthy and I finished the season out with my guys.”
The Suns, who found success in the series when they established a fast pace, went up 17-6 early with Richardson hitting three 3-pointers.
But Stoudemire collected two quick fouls and retreated to the bench. Richardson wound up with 14 points after the first quarter, but it was tempered by Nash’s five turnovers.
Portland narrowed it to 28-26 on Fernandez’s 3-pointer.
The Suns stretched the lead to 41-32, but Roy finally came alive, hitting a running 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:51 to go in the half.
Hill’s fast-break layup and free throw made it 53-40. Richardson finished the first half with 19 points. He made all four of his 3-point attempts.
Webster hit consecutive 3-pointers that narrowed it to 69-65, but Dudley answered with a 3-pointer for the Suns.
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry credited the defense.
“At the end of the night, they shot 38 percent. To me, that’s a credit to our defense. Nobody really talks about it, but we like it,” Gentry said. “In the locker room, we pat each other on the back.”
Hill advanced past the first round for the first time in his 14-year career.
The Suns are 6-1 in their last six potential series-clinching games.
Portland has never won a series that they have trailed 3-2.
“Seemed like every time we were able to get close we’d make a mistake,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “Whether it was a turnover or a bad possession, they make you pay. Nash has had that MVP-type season. Richardson was big this series. Amare came with his `A’ Game tonight.”
NOTES: C Greg Oden(notes) was at Portland’s shootaround earlier Thursday. The 7-foot former No. 1 draft pick broke his left kneecap and required season-ending surgery early in December. Oden addressed reporters during Thursday’s shootaround, saying he was not yet doing any court-related workouts. … Suns C Robin Lopez(notes), who has a bulging disc in his back, participated in the Suns’ shootaround but is not close to returning. It was unclear if he’d be available for the second round.