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Suns Notch Home-Court Advantage

Associated Press
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; Page D04

The Phoenix Suns clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs before the first quarter against Denver ended last night, then went on to blow out the host Nuggets, 128-114.

Joe Johnson scored 18 of his 26 points in a 44-point first quarter that showcased the Suns at their high-flying best. Phoenix shot 71 percent (17 for 24) in the quarter to blow to a 19-point lead.

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The Nuggets didn't get closer than 12 again, and that came in the final minute of the Suns' fifth straight victory. It was a win Phoenix didn't need to clinch the best record in the NBA, and the resulting home-court postseason edge, because San Antonio lost at Memphis in a game that ended just when the Suns' onslaught was gaining steam.

Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points, Shawn Marion had 18 and Quentin Richardson 16 in the Suns' 62nd victory, tying the franchise record set by the 1992-93 team that made it to the NBA Finals. Steve Nash had eight points and 13 assists, eight in the first quarter.

Nash and Marion sat out the entire fourth quarter for the second straight game. Stoudemire left with 10 minutes to play and Johnson with 8 1/2 to go.

Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points, Kenyon Martin had 22 and Andre Miller 17 for the Nuggets, 24-4 since the all-star break with three of the losses to Phoenix. They have lost two straight for the first time since George Karl became coach on Jan. 28.

76ERS 122, BUCKS 106: Allen Iverson had 39 points and 12 assists, and Kyle Korver scored 19 points to lead host Philadelphia into the postseason for the first time in two years.

The 76ers blew a chance to clinch a playoff spot a day earlier by losing in New Jersey, but they didn't waste this opportunity. They raced to a 22-point lead and won for the seventh time in nine games and 10th in the last 15 -- a fantastic finish for a team that seemed headed toward the lottery about six weeks ago.

"I feel like myself and my teammates, we are a playoff team," Iverson said. "We stuck with each other in good times and bad times and we never pointed fingers at each other."

Philadelphia (42-39) can finish, sixth, seventh or eighth in the Eastern Conference depending on how fading Cleveland and the streaking Nets fare in their final two games.

• GRIZZLIES 94, SPURS 92: Mike Miller scored 28 points, including a 22-footer at the buzzer, to give Memphis the win at home.

The Spurs' loss guarantees Phoenix will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

San Antonio played without point guard Tony Parker, who sat out the game with a stomach virus.

Miller scored Memphis's last nine points over the final 1 minute 11 seconds to negate the Spurs' fourth-quarter comeback. His winning shot was set up after Robert Horry missed a three-pointer on the Spurs' previous possession.

• MAGIC 92, PACERS 88: Steve Francis scored 24 points, including a big jumper with 10 seconds to play, as Orlando won at home.

DeShawn Stevenson added 18 points and rookie Dwight Howard had 17 points and nine rebounds for Orlando, which ended a seven-game losing streak.

Indiana got 19 points from reserve point guard Fred Jones and 16 from Jermaine O'Neal, but lost its third straight game.

• ROCKETS 115, CLIPPERS 90: Yao Ming had 24 points and Tracy McGrady added 16 points and 10 assists to lead host Houston to its sixth straight win.

The victory gave Houston its sixth 50-win season and the first since 1996-97.

Elton Brand scored a season-high 36 points for the Clippers.

JAZZ 92, KINGS 82: Matt Harpring had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Utah beat Sacramento in Salt Lake City for the first time in five years.

"We don't have a lot to play for other than to hopefully gain a little respect from the fans and the game itself," Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan said.

TIMBERWOLVES 102, HORNETS 99: Wally Szczerbiak scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, leading visiting Minnesota to a comeback victory.

WARRIORS 126, LAKERS 99: Baron Davis had 24 points and 13 assists and host Golden State sent Los Angeles to its fifth straight defeat.

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