The San Antonio-Phoenix series was supposed to be a spectacular first-round matchup of potential NBA champions. Instead, it's become a Spurs smackdown. Tony Parker had a career-high 41 points along with 12 assists and San Antonio routed the Suns 115-99 on Friday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
The defending NBA champion Spurs never trailed in winning their ninth consecutive playoff game and 13th of 14, dating to last season. They 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.
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.
Tim Duncan added 23 points and 10 rebounds and Manu Ginobili scored 20 points in the Spurs' fourth consecutive playoff road victory and ninth in their last 11.
But Parker did the most damage, often on a pick-and-roll that has flustered Phoenix all series. With three different defenders trying to stop him, he made 17-of-26 shots.
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.
The packed house in the Suns' first home game of the playoffs booed San Antonio coach Gregg 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 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.
Notes:@ Columnists at both local newspapers ran said in Friday's editions that coach Mike 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 and second for San Antonio, scored nine points.
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