Both the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs can now rest easy knowing they'll be returning to the upcoming Western Conference playoffs.

With plenty to play for in the final few regular season games, however, neither team can truly rest.

The Spurs will be chasing the West's top seed while the Suns jockey for home-court advantage in the first round when the teams meet in San Antonio Wednesday, with Phoenix seeking its first season-series victory in five years.

San Antonio has won nine of its last 10 games, and seems unwilling to ease up entering the season's final week. The Spurs (53-24) are just one game behind New Orleans for first place in the West, but just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Suns (52-26), who are in sixth.

"In past seasons with five games to go, you knew you could be first, second, third or even fourth, and that's it. This year it could be seventh, so it puts pressure on everybody," San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili said. "We can't slow down, we have to keep playing."

The Spurs, who've won five straight and 12 of 13 at home, rebounded from a dismal offensive effort with a 72-65 win at Portland on Sunday. In its previous game, San Antonio had lost 90-64 to Utah, meaning its two lowest point totals of the season came in the last two games.

But the team's signature defense seems to be tightening just as the playoffs approach. The Spurs have held their last 11 opponents under 100 points, with those teams averaging just 86.1 points and shooting 40.7 percent from the field.

The Suns again feature an uptempo style, even since the acquisition of center Shaquille O'Neal.

O'Neal was scratched Tuesday due to a hip contusion, but Amare Stoudemire had 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead seven scorers in double figures as Phoenix won 127-113 at Memphis to clinch a playoff berth.

"We wanted to win it from the inside, and, without Shaq, we were undermanned in the interior," Stoudemire said. "I just tried to attack in many ways. Just try to keep them off-balance a little bit."

The Suns had lost two of three before Tuesday's win, but they've still won 12 of their last 16 - averaging 114.5 points over that span - as O'Neal has grown more comfortable. The center, who is expected to return for Wednesday's game, is averaging 12.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in 24 games since coming to Phoenix in a trade from Miami.

The hot streak has left Phoenix just 2 1/2 games from the top of the West, tied with Utah a half-game behind Houston for the last home-court spot in the first round.

"We are working against the conference standings right now," Stoudemire said after the win over the Grizzlies. "We are still improving as a team, and this was a good game for us. It was also an important game."

Since taking three of four against San Antonio during the 2002-03 season, Phoenix had won just three of its last 14 games against the Spurs entering 2007-08.

But the Suns have won two of the first three in the series this season, including a 100-95 win at San Antonio in December and a 94-87 win exactly one month ago.


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