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Warrick and the Suns have won 8 of their last 11 games.
(Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)
Posted: Feb. 24, 2011

The Phoenix Suns don't sit too far out of the playoff picture.

An upcoming six-game road trip could go a long way in determining their fate.

Looking to improve its position in the Western Conference, Phoenix begins its trek Friday night seeking a 13th consecutive victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Despite leading by as many as 18 points versus Atlanta on Wednesday night, the Suns (28-27) found themselves in a tie game with five minutes remaining before pulling out a 105-97 victory.

"It was a good team win to start off (after) the break," said Jared Dudley, who made 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 17 points off the bench. "We know what the task is at stake. Basically, we are a couple games back of the playoffs, home game before the road trip; we needed to come out with energy, get a win to get us going. We know what we need to do and this is a stepping stone."

Channing Frye keyed the win, scoring six of his 20 points in the final four minutes. He finished 4 of 8 on 3-point attempts and is shooting 54.2 percent from beyond the arc over the last three games while averaging 25.0 points.

The Suns are 11-1 when he makes at least four 3-pointers.

Phoenix remains in 10th place in the West, two games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"We're approaching this like we're a college team and we're trying to get into the NCAA tournament," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We've got 27 games left and we don't have a conference tournament, so we've got to have an at-large bid."

Gentry's team could make up some ground during the first half of this trip with three games against opponents with sub-.500 records -- Toronto, Indiana and New Jersey.

The Suns, who have won five of seven on the road, have won six straight in Toronto while averaging 121.5 points. They've outscored the Raptors by an average of 12.2 points during their 12-game win streak in the series overall, which dates to a 101-94 loss Feb. 10, 2004.

Steve Nash, who grew up in British Columbia, has had at least 16 assists in each of his last three trips back to Canada. He is looking for a season-best eighth consecutive double-double after registering 13 points and 10 assists versus the Hawks.

While Nash continues to excel, Vince Carter is averaging 8.7 points on 37.7 percent shooting -- including 2 of 17 from 3-point range -- in his last seven games. Carter, though, has averaged 24.9 points against the Raptors in Toronto, where he spent his first six-plus seasons.

The Raptors (16-42) snapped Chicago's four-game winning streak with a 118-113 victory Wednesday night as both Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points.

Toronto, allowing opponents to shoot an NBA-worst 48.3 percent, improved to 9-2 when holding teams under 43.8 percent.

"Our main key is really defense, our defense definitely won us this game," said Amir Johnson, who scored 17 points. "If we can play defense and keep scoring like we do, we could be a problem."

It could be difficult to slow down the Suns, who average 105.1 points to rank fourth in the league. While offense has been its catalyst, Phoenix has surrendered 95.2 points per game -- 10.1 below its season average -- en route to winning eight of 11.

Phoenix acquired point guard Aaron Brooks from Houston on Thursday for guard Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick. Brooks is averaging 11.6 points and 3.8 assists in 34 games.

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