Blazers eye playoff spot, welcome Suns to Rip City

( - The Portland Trail Blazers will try to punch their ticket to the postseason Monday night when they welcome the Phoenix Suns to the Moda Center.

A Portland victory, or a loss by the New Orleans Pelicans gives the Blazers a spot in the playoffs. The Blazers' magic number to clinch the Northwest Division is three.

After a five-game losing streak, Portland has won three in a row. The Trail Blazers knocked off the Utah Jazz and Suns on the road, then came back to dispatch the Denver Nuggets, 120-114, at home on Saturday.

"It's good to have three in a row on the heels of that losing streak," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "At this stage of the season ... it's good to get one."

LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Blazers. Former Nugget Arron Afflalo netted 21 points and Nicolas Batum added 15 points and seven assists for Portland.

After Jameer Nelson's layup and 3-pointer cut the Denver deficit to 101-98 with 5:38 left, the Blazers responded with seven straight points to put the game away.

Aldridge hit a jumper and a Batum layup preceded his 3-pointer, which extended Portland's margin to 108-98 with 2:29 left. Denver never got within less than four the rest of the way.

The Suns are fighting for their postseason lives. They are four games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The New Orleans Pelicans are 1 1/2 games better than Phoenix.

The Suns have lost three straight at the worst possible time and all three have been at home. Phoenix lost to Sacramento, Portland and the Thunder, 109-97, Sunday night.

The Thunder trailed by as many as 20 in the second quarter but ended the period strong and outscored the hosts by 20 over the final 24 minutes.

Markieff Morris netted 24 points, T.J. Warren had 18 off the bench and Alex Len pulled down 11 rebounds for the Suns.

"He was just moving. He can catch the ball on the run," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said of Warren. "Before a defense can close out on him, he's already gone."

After a sluggish first half, Oklahoma City used its defense to get back in the game. It held Phoenix to 7-of-24 shooting in the third quarter and trimmed an eight-point deficit down to three.

Anthony Morrow's 3-pointer three minutes into the fourth put the Thunder up 85-83 and jumpstarted a 13-0 run. Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin hit triples during the flurry, which Morrow capped with another long ball at 6:45.

Suns guard Brandon Knight returned after missing the previous eight games with an ankle injury, and the rust showed. He scored just three points on 1-of-10 shooting off the bench.

The Blazers are 6-2 in their last eight as the host in this series.