The Phoenix Suns appear to be rolling at just the right time, and their next three games could go a long way toward determining their postseason fate.
The critical stretch starts with a potential first-round playoff preview against the San Antonio Spurs, who could get Tony Parker back with a chance to clinch the top overall seed in the Western Conference.
Phoenix looks to take a step toward earning its first playoff berth in four years Friday night, but it may have to snap San Antonio’s 14-game home win streak to get there.
Following statement-making victories over playoff-bound Portland and Northwest Division-champion Oklahoma City last weekend, the Suns (47-31) won for the ninth time in 11 games with a 94-88 victory at New Orleans on Wednesday.
Gerald Green finished with 21 points, while Goran Dragic had 20 points and nine assists for Phoenix, which remained one game ahead of Memphis – a 107-102 winner over Miami – for the West’s final playoff spot.
"It was not a pretty game. That’s obvious," Dragic said. "We didn’t play our best game, but in the end we are really happy we won another game."
On Thursday, the Suns moved percentage points ahead of Dallas into seventh place after the Mavericks fell 109-100 to visiting San Antonio. They also pulled within one game of sixth-place Golden State following the Warriors’ 100-99 home loss to Denver.
Phoenix now faces a trio of opponents – San Antonio, Dallas and Memphis – that it’s dropped six of eight games against.
The Spurs (61-18) have gone 2-2 since their 19-game winning streak ended, but they’ve put up an average of 109.6 points while allowing just 94.6 during their 14-game run at home. They have a chance to secure home-court advantage throughout the postseason with a win or an Oklahoma City loss.
Patty Mills scored 26 with six 3-pointers while starting in place of Parker on Thursday. Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and a career-high 16 boards, while Tim Duncan had 20 points and 15 rebounds after leaving briefly in the first quarter with a hyperextended knee.
"It really wasn’t that bad," Duncan said. "It just scared me more than anything."
San Antonio played its second straight game without Parker, who is day to day with a back injury.
Parker had 20 points and Duncan finished with 17 in the only other meeting with the Suns in San Antonio, a 99-96 win Nov. 6. With Parker sitting out because of a bruised shin, Duncan posted 17 points and 13 boards in a 108-101 victory at Phoenix on Dec. 18.
Parker also missed a 106-85 road loss Feb. 21 because of an assortment of ailments.
Phoenix’s Channing Frye, who had 17 points in that contest, has totaled 39 on 15-of-23 shooting in his last two games against the Spurs. However, he’s scored 4.5 per game while shooting 23.1 percent – including 4 of 27 from 3-point range – in his last six overall.
Green has been playing well, averaging 25.7 points and hitting 13 of 21 from beyond the arc in his last three contests.
The Suns have posted a 53.5 field-goal percentage while making 20 of 42 from 3-point range in their last two.
Phoenix has dropped eight of the last nine regular-season meetings in San Antonio.