The San Antonio Spurs, known for winning with "Tall Ball," got a spectacular performance from their smallest player to secure a first-round playoff victory over Phoenix.
Avery Johnson helped clinch the best-of-5 series 3-1 Wednesday night with a career-high 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting as the Spurs beat the Suns 99-80.Johnson, who averaged just 10 points during the regular season, scored 20 points per game in the four games, and might have quieted critics who say he is the weak link on a team with David Robinson and NBA Rookie of the Year Tim Duncan.
"He's always getting it below the belt, people saying he's not a shooter," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's been hearing that for nine years."
Johnson has played on five NBA teams in 10 years, but found a home playing for Popovich.
At the end of Wednesday night's game, a sellout crowd was chanting Johnson's name.
"That was the first time in my career that I've heard that," Johnson said. "I know my wife will remind me about 10 years ago in Seattle when the crowd did the same thing, but then I was the 12th man for the Sonics, and they just wanted me to get in for the last 30 seconds."
The Spurs also got help from Chuck Person, who was 6-of-8 from 3-point range and hit three 3s in a decisive second-half surge.
Johnson and Person came through on a night when San Antonio stars Robinson and Duncan struggled early against double-teams.
"We couldn't get anything going until Avery and Chuck stepped up," said Robinson, who finished with 15 points and 21 rebounds, but shot only 3-of-12 from the field.
Person, who averaged only 6.7 points during the regular season, finished with 18 points.
Kevin Johnson led the Suns with 18 points. Steve Nash, who started in place of injured Rex Chapman, finished with 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Antonio McDyess added 10 points and 19 rebounds.