Breakout Suns emerge as NBA championship contender: ‘They’re a damn good team’

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams didn't want to make any major pronouncements about his team. Erik Spoelstra didn't hesitate.

After the Suns put away the Heat for a 110-100 win Tuesday night, the Miami coach came away impressed with a Phoenix team that has won seven in a row on the road and 21 of its last 26 overall.

"They're a damn good team," Spoelstra said. "The play-making they have, the shooting they have, the decision-making. They're extremely well-coached. The ball is in Chris Paul or Devin Booker's hands the majority of the game and they make very good decisions. They put you in compromising situations that are a little bit unique than what you normally face. And we're a good defense, too."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was just getting started after saying #Suns are “a damn good team” following a 10-point loss to Phoenix at home tonight.

“They put you in compromising situations that are a little bit unique then what you normally face.”

Suns 21-5 in last 26 games. pic.twitter.com/kYKjhVu6WV

The Suns have climbed into the second seed in the Western Conference with their torrid stretch, two games behind the Utah Jazz. While the second-place standing can be considered an overachievement this season, Phoenix has staying power at the top of the West alongside Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.

The Suns have a veteran leader in Paul and a young star in Booker. They have a deep rotation mix of emerging complementary players like Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, and savvy vets like Jae Crowder and Dario Saric.

Tuesday night, they built a big lead on the defending Eastern Conference champs and then closed the Heat out with the reserves when the score tightened.

Devin Booker (1) is averaging 25.1 points per game for the Suns. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)

It was the type of win that left Williams feeling great about the Suns' prospects for the rest of the season, even if he wasn't ready to make sweeping statements.

"I don't want to make declarations about us," Williams said. "I just like winning games and winning with our defense against a really good team — a team with a championship pedigree and a team that's been where we want to go."

Here are four more things to know today in the NBA:

Gordon trade request

Aaron Gordon wants out of Orlando, and the Magic appear to be ready to oblige him. Gordon acknowledged Tuesday that he requested a trade ahead of Thursday's deadline. "The losses have accumulated over the years and it's just my frustration boiling over," he said after the Magic lost for the 11th time in 12 games. "I think a lot of people share that sense of frustration with me."

Gordon could be a highly-sought target among contending teams. Orlando has engaged in talks with Denver and Boston among many others.

[email protected] Forward @Double0AG – Aaron Gordon after the game tonight on why he asked for a trade and if he still wants to be traded: pic.twitter.com/I2D1TDp1wj

Curry still out

Steph Curry will be sidelined at least another week for the Golden State Warriors after an MRI revealed inflammation in his bruised tailbone. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday that Curry will miss at least the next three games and be re-evaluated in a week. Curry was hurt last Wednesday in Houston when he lost his balance after a shot attempt, tripped over a riser near the court and fell hard on his backside. His absence is a blow for a Golden State team in ninth place in the Western Conference and fighting to stay in contention for the play-in tournament.

Steve Kerr says Steph Curry will be re-evaluated in a week after an MRI showed inflammation on his tailbone pic.twitter.com/OMvIU2UBwS

Durant at 'critical' point

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said Tuesday that Kevin Durant is at the "critical last stage" in his recovery from a hamstring injury and did not travel with the team on its current road trip. Durant hasn't played since Feb. 13. Nash said the All-Star forward "looks great" during workouts, but did not have a definitive timeline on when Durant will return. "I think it's still up in the air. He just has to close that critical last stage of his rehab," Nash said.

Steve Nash gives the latest update on Kevin Durant’s potential return from injury:

“I think it’s still up in the air. He just has to close that critical final stage of his rehab” pic.twitter.com/c0KL4nxYQF

Game of the night: Celtics at Bucks

Boston has stumbled to start the second half of the season, going 2-5 since the All-Star break heading into a two-game series in Milwaukee. With the trade deadline looming, the Celtics have been in seemingly every rumor and the roster could be set for a shake-up. That uncertainty might not bode well against the surging Bucks, who have won seven in a row and 12 of their last 13.

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.

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