See, here’s the thing about the Phoenix Suns: They’re like little children. They hear what everybody is saying about them. But they’re not listening. They’re too young? Their style won’t work in the playoffs? It’s not their time? In one ear and out the other.
"They’ve been saying stuff about us all season," said Quentin Richardson. "We haven’t listened yet. Why would we listen now?" Good point.
The realities of playoff basketball may eventually reel in the Suns, but the first game of the postseason sure looked a lot like the regular season.
Phoenix buried the Memphis Grizzlies 114-103 in an avalanche of 3-pointers, proving the point coach Mike D’Antoni made before the game.
"I don’t think you can (defend us)," D’Antoni said. "You better score more than 100 points."
Memphis figured to be a pesky first-round foe. The Grizzlies are deep, they play hard, and they held the Suns to less than 100 points in three of their four regular season meetings.
But Steve Nash didn’t play in one of the games — a 88-79 loss in January — and on Sunday, the Suns made sure they imposed their tempo and will on the Grizzlies.
Phoenix hit six of its first seven 3-point shots, scored 39 points in the opening quarter and forced Memphis to play catch-up.
The Grizzlies made the requisite runs — the Suns can’t go pedal to the metal for 48 minutes — but there never was a question about the outcome.
Only the final margin.
"We’re going to play that way," D’Antoni said. "That’s who we are."
The victory gets a gold star for two reasons:
Phoenix hit an unusually thick patch of ice in the second quarter. It went 5 minutes, 17 seconds without a point and made just 6-of-25 field goal attempts.
And the Suns still had 59 points at halftime.
Phoenix, too, got almost nothing from Amaré Stoudemire, who had more fouls (five) than field goals (three).
Stoudemire, who finished with nine points, said he had no room to operate against Memphis’ interior defense.
"I saw double-teams in the regular season, but I didn’t really see triple-teams and quadruple-teams," he said. "When I rolled to the basket, the whole team sagged on me."
That was news to Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello, whose bemused comment —
"If Amaré saw three or four guys at a time, who am I to disagree?" — suggests Stoudemire let Memphis get to him.
It speaks to the number of buttons D’Antoni and Nash can push, however, that the Suns were able to score 114 points with Stoudemire a non-factor.
Sunday, the leading men were Shawn Marion and the improbable star, backup center Steven Hunter.
Marion had his usual statstuffer game (26 points, 13 rebounds, one steal), but he nearly gave D’Antoni a heart attack when he landed hard on his right wrist early in the third quarter and rolled around in agony.
Fortunately, Marion was back on his pogo stick in a couple of minutes.
Hunter, meanwhile, had 16 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and the kind of effort the Suns will need from their bench to win a title.
"Steven Hunter came in and gave us a big, big boost," D’Antoni said. Hunter also held Memphis big man Pau Gasol to just four points in the second half after Gasol had carved up the Suns for 12 first-half points. This was just one of 16 games Phoenix will need to win to hold a victory parade come June. But it was an impressive start, and it reinforced a season-long truth. Slow down the Suns? You have to catch them first.