Nash Leads Suns Past Spurs in NBA Playoff Opener; Celtics Beat Cavaliers

Steve Nash scored 33 points and handed out 10 assists to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 111-102 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the opening game of their National Basketball Association playoff series.

The Boston Celtics sent the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James to their worst loss of the season in yesterday’s other second-round playoff matchup, winning 104-86 to tie their series at one game apiece.

The Suns, eliminated by San Antonio in their past four postseason meetings, withstood several second-half comebacks by San Antonio last night to win Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

“It was huge for us,” said Jason Richardson, who scored 27 points for the Suns. “Coming in here we had that home-court advantage and we didn’t want to let it get away.”

Amare Stoudemire added 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns, who ended the game with a 17-9 scoring run after the Spurs had trimmed a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to one.

Phoenix, the third seed in the West, made 15 of 18 free throw attempts during the fourth quarter and will host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series tomorrow.

Manu Ginobili led the seventh-seeded Spurs with 27 points, while Tony Parker had 26 off the bench and Tim Duncan added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Celtics Win

The Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 31-12 during the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to pull away from the Eastern Conference’s top seed.

The Cavaliers had won an NBA-best 39 of their previous 45 home games this season.

It was their second loss in the past 15 home playoff games. Cleveland’s worst defeat in its previous 88 games this season had been by 17 points, at Washington on Nov. 18 and at Charlotte on Feb. 17.

Ray Allen scored 22 points to lead Boston, which opened its biggest lead at 91-66 during the fourth quarter before the Cavaliers went on a 15-0 scoring run to pull within 10 points.

It was as close as Cleveland would get, as the Celtics hit five of their next six shots.

Kevin Garnett added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, while Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 19 assists. The Celtics, the fourth seed in the East, will host Game 3 of the best-of-seven conference semifinal on May 7.

James Plays Injured

James, playing with a strained right elbow, led the Cavaliers with 24 points and seven rebounds after receiving the NBA’s Most Valuable Player trophy before the game.

“They kicked our behind from the beginning,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “We did not fight back until late. We have to decide we’re going to take the fight to them in these games. Nothing’s going to be given to us.”

The Orlando Magic, the second seed in the East, host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of their playoff series tonight.

In the West, the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers are home in Game 2 against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers won the series opener 104-99.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

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