10:00 PM ET, April 16, 2012
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
PHOENIX -- Down to the final games of the season, the Phoenix Suns are playing with a greater sense of urgency.
In securing their fourth victory in their last six games, Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Steve Nash had 13 assists to pace the Suns to a 125-107 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.
The Suns had six players score in double figures, built a 20-point lead by the end of the third quarter and cruised to the win.
"The sense of urgency has been here since the All-Star Game," said Nash, who is 14 assists from passing Oscar Robertson for fifth on the all-time list. "I think we're playing that way every game, and have felt that through the last few weeks."
With their win and a victory by Denver over Houston, the Suns and Rockets have identical records. At this point, the Suns would get the tiebreaker and move into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Phoenix gets the edge over Houston by virtue of a season-series tie and a better conference record. Phoenix has a 22-21 record against Western Conference teams and the Rockets have a 21-23 mark.
"Offensively, we're playing a high level," Dudley said. "When we play unselfish and move the ball like we did and shoot the ball from 3, it's hard to beat us."
"We could never get over the hump," Crawford said. "That's a team playing for playoff position and they've been one of the best teams since the All-Star break. I think they'll continue to treat every game like a playoff game and they did that again (Monday night)."
After straining his right hip last week against Memphis, Nash played less than 6 minutes in the Suns' loss to San Antonio last Saturday.
After a day off, Nash started against the Blazers and he had eight assists in the first quarter as the Suns took a nine-point lead.
Gortat scored 10 points in the first quarter, had 15 at halftime and finished with his 29th double-double of the season..
When Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry rested Nash late in the opening half, the Suns were ahead by nine points. When he returned the Suns were up by five with 5:39 left in the half and they went on a 19-8 run. The Suns led 66-53 at halftime.
"There's no question we're stronger when Steve is healthy," Gentry said. "He felt good (Monday night) and easily created the flow we needed."
When Michael Redd made two free throws and Morris followed with a dunk, the Suns led 101-80 less than a minute into the final quarter.
With the loss, Portland dropped to 8-22 on the road and only Sacramento, with five road wins, has fewer.
"I can't remember if we ever had three or four consecutive stops," Portland coach Kaleb Canales said. "They shot a season-high 60 percent from the field, and we can't allow that. Our defense needs and will continue to get better."
The Suns have four of their remaining five games at home. ... Phoenix improved to 7-3 in April, tied for the most wins of any Western Conference team this month. ... The Blazers surrendered a season-high 125 points, beating the 124 they allowed to Washington on Feb. 14. ... The 51 field goals were also a season-high allowed by the Blazers, beating the 48 allowed twice before.
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 16: Michael Redd #22 of the Phoenix Suns gets tied up by Wesley Matthews #2 of the Portland...(Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||41-89 (.461)||51-85 (.600)|
|3PM-3PA||8-21 (.381)||7-15 (.467)|
|FTM-FTA||17-23 (.739)||16-19 (.842)|
|Fast Break Points||11||27|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||20 (1/0)|
Next 5 Games
From Elias: The Suns were 14-20 at the All-Star Break and now sit in eighth place at 32-29 in the Western Conference. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team made the playoffs in the Western Conference after entering the All-Star Break six or more games below .500 was back in 1996-97. Oddly enough, two teams accomplished that feat that season and the Suns were one of them. Phoenix went 17-31 prior to the break that season, but then posted a 23-11 record post break, earning the seven seed and eventually losing in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle, 3-2. The Clippers also entered the break exactly six games under .500 that season and went on to make the playoffs as an eight seed. Los Angeles also lost in the first round of the playoffs, 3-0 to Utah. None of the three teams that accomplished the feat over the last 25 seasons went on to win a playoff series. The last team to do so were the 1984-85 Trail Blazers. Portland went 22-28 prior to the All-Star Break and followed that with a 20-12 mark afterwards. The Trail Blazers defeated the Mavericks 3-1 in the Western Conference First Round and then were bounced 4-1 in the Conference Semifinals by the Lakers.[+]
6 or More Games Below .500 at All-Star Break - Made Western Conference Playoffs
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