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Preview: San Antonio Spurs (61-20) at Phoenix Suns (39-42)

Phoenix Suns 106, San Antonio Spurs 103

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PHOENIX — It’s no surprise for the Phoenix Suns to see their season end in a game against the San Antonio Spurs.

After all, that was the case in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008 when San Antonio ripped the Suns’ hearts out in excruciating fashion.

But usually that contest occurs in the middle of May rather than the middle of April, and this time the Suns can only blame their mediocrity all season rather than the kind of bad breaks they’ve suffered throughout the past decade against San Antonio in the playoffs.

As was the case last year, so much will be different the next time the Phoenix Suns take to the US Airways Center floor after tonight with a likely lockout looming and then potentially the start of a Phoenix rebuilding project in full force.

If this is Steve Nash’s final game as a member of the Suns, it’s awfully fitting that it will come against a Spurs squad that has ended three of his five playoff runs with Phoenix in such heartbreaking fashion before the Suns vanquished the Spurs in the second round of last year’s playoffs with a sweep seeping with revenge.

It will most certainly be Gary Bender’s last game — with the long-time broadcaster retiring after 18 years of duty with the Suns — there will be giveaways galore with tonight being Fan Appreciation Night and it will be the freaking Spurs, so the Suns might show just a bit more passion than they did Monday against the Timberwolves when neither squad decided to play any defense.

For Phoenix there won’t be anything tangible to play for aside from reaching the 40-win plateau, a hollow accomplishment that head coach Alvin Gentry referenced in his brief postgame comments Monday night. The Suns have already clinched their first losing season of the Nash Era and they are locked into the No. 13 spot in the draft lottery.

The Spurs enter the night tied with Chicago for the league’s best record, so home-court advantage in the Finals could be on the table for them, if they even care. The Bulls host the Nets earlier in the night, and if the teams finish tied home-court advantage will be determined by a random draw since they split their season series and both went 23-7 in non-conference games.

Last night against the Lakers Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess all sat out, and their remaining 10 players all logged between 21-28 minutes in a nine-point loss to a Los Angeles squad using playoff rotations.

The Spurs have always valued resting their guys over wins at the end of the regular season, so it probably won’t even matter that the Suns will be playing another opponent on the second game of a back-to-back since it’s likely none of the big guns for San Antonio will even suit up, and if they do they will be plenty rested.

On the Phoenix side Mickael Pietrus is out and  Vince Carter may sit as well (he’s a game-time decision), as the Suns continue to give guys like Garret Siler and Zabian Dowdell rotation minutes to prove themselves.

Still, Channing Frye is expecting another dogfight against the Suns’ biggest rivals of the past decade.

“Lot of emotions,” Frye said of the game. “Knowing San Antonio, remembering what we did last year, they’ll probably play everybody. But we’d like it that way. It is what it is, and we want to continue to play and just leave it out there because this is an opportunity for us to play, an opportunity to go out and have fun, just play together and you never know when the next time we’ll all be together like this.”

The names on the jerseys will say Suns-Spurs and there’s sure to be some emotion in the building as Suns fans say goodbye to their team for what could be quite some time, but it just won’t be the same to see Quinn and Splitter end Phoenix’s season after 82 rather than Duncan and Parker in another playoff thriller.

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