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Suns defeat Trail Blazers in season finale

Apr 17, 2008 - 6:27 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Gordan Giricek and Sean Marks both took advantage of their extra playing time.

Giricek scored 17 points and Marks added 16 and 13 rebounds for the Phoenix Suns in Wednesday's 100-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the season finale for each club.

Despite the win, Phoenix remains locked into the sixth spot in the Western Conference and will face third-seeded San Antonio (56-26) in the opening round due to Utah's loss and Houston's win earlier Wednesday.

The Suns have been eliminated by the Spurs in three of their last four appearances in the postseason.

"I've been seeing San Antonio almost every playoff since I've been a Phoenix Sun," Suns forward Amare Stoudemire said. "I think this time around we're feeling confident about ourselves. As long as we take care of business and do what we have to do, we should be OK.

"I think this time around the Spurs are not coming into this game knowing that I'm undersized. Now (Shaquille O'Neal's) there so he's going to take up that size differential. It used to be two 7-footers vs. me and Shawn Marion in the paint, but now we have (O'Neal). It's definitely going to be a difference."

O'Neal was acquired on February 6 to help strengthen Phoenix's interior defense against clubs such as San Antonio.

"If you look at the past eight years, and the way teams have been playing, teams that play both styles," O'Neal said. "The ones who have the ability to run and then they slow it down and pound it inside to the big man.

"The last (few) years it has been four with me and four with Tim (Duncan), the Pistons won luckily one year. When I came here, I knew I could help this team get to the next level. When we do everything right, and stay focused, we will be fine."

Stoudemire was the lone Phoenix starter to score in double figures with 12 in just 18 minutes for coach Mike D'Antoni, who kept the rest of his starting rotation under 15 minutes.

By the start of the second half, with the Suns holding a 58-49 lead and knowing that both the Spurs and Rockets won, D'Antoni went deep in bench.

Phoenix's reserves extended the lead in the third quarter by one to 79-68.

"I think we had open shots and good looks, but the ball wasn't falling," Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "This is good for us. If the West wasn't so tough, we might be in that playoffs. The West is so deep that teams with good records still don't get in. This season was a good stepping stone for us."

Travis Outlaw collected 24 points and 12 boards for Portland (41-41), which finished at .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

"We have seen a lot of growth," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "I am proud of this team and their effort and how they approached this season. We like our potential in the future. We like the direction the club is going in."

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    Trail Blazers 89, Suns 92  4th - 3:00Apr 17 12:13 AM

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    Trail Blazers vs. SunsApr 16 6:22 AM