The Phoenix Suns know they’ll have to check the scoreboard after their final regular-season game to determine their playoff positioning, and they know that they could end up facing any of three different opponents in four different locations.
But one thing is for certain - if they don’t beat the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Wednesday, they’ll be hitting the road for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Suns enter the final game of the regular season tied for fourth in the West with Houston and Northwest Division champion Utah at 54-27, with the trio one game behind San Antonio. The Jazz play at the Spurs, while Houston hosts the Los Angeles Clippers.
Depending on the various possible outcomes, the Suns could finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the West, and could face any of the other three teams in the first round.
But for them to earn home court advantage, they’ll need to win their ninth consecutive game against the Trail Blazers (41-40) and hope that either the Jazz beat the Spurs or the Clippers beat the Rockets.
“There’s a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said, “but overall with all things that have gone on this year, we’ve put ourselves in a good position. If we can win the last game, we could creep into the top four there. That would be nice, but either way I think our team is still getting better, and we can just keep improving throughout the playoffs.”
The Suns put themselves in that spot with a 122-116 win over Golden State on Monday, eliminating the Warriors from the playoff picture and winning their eighth home game in the last nine.
Amare Stoudemire had 28 points despite being slowed by what he called a “severe cold” and Shaquille O’Neal added 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Suns blew a 17-point lead, but recovered to erase an 11-point deficit in the final seven minutes.
“I’m kind of glad it happened that way,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We looked pretty good at the end. We looked sharp, and that’s the kind of stuff you need to get you going.”
Forward Grant Hill left Monday’s game after tweaking a groin injury, and D’Antoni said after the game he’d likely rest Hill on Wednesday as a precaution.
Without him, the Suns will try to sweep their second straight season series against Portland as the Blazers visit Phoenix for the first time this season. The Suns won twice in Portland last month, including a 111-98 victory on March 18, and they haven’t lost to the Blazers at home since February 2004.
Portland, which had a 13-game winning streak in December and exceeded expectations despite No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden missing the entire season, needs a win to secure its first winning season since 2002-03.
The Blazers have now won three of their last four after beating Memphis 113-91 at home on Tuesday. Standout guard Brandon Roy had 16 points and 11 assists, and leads the team in both categories.
“We wanted to send the message to the fans that we’ve improved,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ve gotten better and the next step is to make the playoffs next year.”
They also beat Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers in Portland recently, but they’re just 13-27 on the road and they haven’t beaten a winning team away from home since December.