THE FACTS: The Golden State Warriors are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007, just the second time in 20 seasons.
The Warriors, who struggled to a 23-43 record last season, can clinch on Sunday after they stumbled badly at the start and the finish Friday night but somehow edged the lowly Suns in Phoenix 111-107.
"This is not a surprise," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. Maybe not to the Warriors, but surely to the rest of the NBA. The Warriors' magic number is two, but they can clinch the No. 8 spot with a win over No. 9 Utah at home Sunday night.
"They worked their tails off," Jackson said of his players. "They deserve all the credit."
Warriors guard Stephen Curry said, "We understand we have a bigger goal...But it would be nice to have that X by your name."
Jackson had said, confidently before tipoff, that, "We're not good enough to look ahead." His words didn't appear to get through though when the Suns rolled to an early 18-point lead (41-23 early in the second quarter).
"I'm disappointed by the start," Jackson said. "We were not prepared in the first quarter. We were a step slow....unacceptable."
In the end, though, the Warriors had too much firepower. They pulled ahead late in the third quarter, then struggled to put the Suns away but appeared safe when Jarrett Jack hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left for a 107-102 lead. Then the Warriors made a series of inexplicable mistakes in the final 20 seconds, They had a 107-104 lead when Curry threw the ball from the frontcourt into the backcourt instead of waiting to be fouled.
"Bad play by Steph," Jackson said. "He thought he had someone open. A careless mistake. That can't happen." The Warriors then intentionally fouled the Suns with a full 17 seconds left.
"We were trying to foul, but not that quickly," Jackson said. But Jermaine O'Neal, despite a lane violation by the Warriors' David Lee, converted only one free throw.
The end result was that they didn't wrap it up until Curry hit two free throws with 14.8 seconds left. Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 25 points, while Lee had 22 points and 14 boards.
The Suns (23-53 ) lost their eighth in a row and 12th in 13 games. They now have the NBA's third-worst record, just below Cleveland (23-52).
For the Suns, Goran Dragic scored 32. "There are still six games left," Dragic said. "You have to play for your own pride and everything else....most importantly for your team." Michael Beasley had 25 points but also six turnovers.
Beasley, who has has a disappointing season but has played better under new coach Lindsey Hunter, said he has stopped listening to criticism.
"I stopped listening to people....everybody. My friends, my family, my teammates, my coaches," Beasley said.
After a fine all-round game Wednesday at Utah, Hunter said he told Beasley, "'I'm proud of you, but I'm mad at you. You could have been doing this all along.'"
QUOTABLE: "It would be the start of something great."
-- Klay Thompson on making the playoffs
THE STAT: The Suns shot 61.1 percent yet lost. The NBA record in this situation was set on April 11, 2001 at Washington, when the Wizards shot 63.4 percent in a 113-109 loss to the Bulls.
TURNING POINT: When Dragic turned mortal in the third quarter. Dragic hit every shot in the first half, 7-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-2 from long range, and 5-for-5 from the line as he piled up 21 points and the Suns took a 64-55 lead at the break. But he couldn't carry the Suns by himself. He scored only two in the Suns' 14-point third quarter, while the Warriors piled up 32 and took an 87-78 lead into the final quarter.
"I don't think he took a shot in the paint," Curry pointed out. "You can say you can live with it. But you have to do something different."
QUOTABLE II: "A poor man's Manu Ginobili from the point-guard position. Great first step, great change of speed, lulls you to sleep, attack the rim, can score can facilitate...."
-- Mark Jackson on Dragic
HOT: Dragic shot 11-for-13, 3-for-4 on 3-pointers.
NOT: Curry shot 6-for-15 and threw a potentially game-losing pass in the closing seconds.
IN THE ARENA: The Suns sold out for the second time this season (Feb. 22 vs. Boston).
NOTABLE: The Warriors swept the season series vs. the Suns, who usually dominate them, for the first time since 1976-77....This was the Warriors' biggest comeback win of the season (18 points)...The Warriors made the playoffs in 2007 as a No. 8 seed, then made history by becoming one of the few teams to beat a No. 1 seed (Dallas). Before that, they hadn't made the playoffs since 1994.
UP NEXT: For the Warriors, Sunday vs. Utah, Tuesday vs. Minnesota and Thursday vs. Oklahoma City. For the Suns, Sunday vs. New Orleans, Tuesday @ Houston and Wednesday @ Dallas.