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Suns boost postseason hopes as Western Conference race tightens

Two years ago, the NBA had the Eastern Conference and the Wild West. Just five games over the course of an 82-game season separated the 55-win second seed from the 50-win eighth seed in the Western Conference, creating one of the most competitive playoff brackets in league history.

With about 20 games remaining in this abbreviated season, the West is again threatening to be wild and woolly. A few weeks ago, everyone was feeling sorry for Steve Nash, seemingly destined to miss the playoffs in potentially his last year in Phoenix. But through Monday a 9-2 record since the All-Star break had put the Suns just a half-game out of a postseason berth -- and only 3½ games away from the fourth seed. Can the Suns (up to 13th in the Power Rankings) continue their climb as the schedule gets tougher, beginning this week with a four-game road trip that includes visits to Miami, Orlando and Indiana?

Entering Tuesday, 10 teams in the West had winning records. A handful of them are teetering between a surge to playoff legitimacy and a plummet into possible full-scale rebuilding. Not surprisingly, the middle of the pack is where the action is in this week's Power Rankings.

(All stats and records are through Monday, March 19.)

NBA Power Rankings