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NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE : Suns Are Finding the Road to Be More to Their Liking


SEATTLE — Once this setting would have caused the Phoenix Suns problems. Not specifically this town or this region, but what it represents.

The road.

The Suns were the team that couldn't win the close games in the playoffs, especially on the road. Consequently, they couldn't get out of the Western Conference playoffs and into the NBA finals.

That image--and that fate--is on the verge of changing, maybe as early as tonight, when a victory over the SuperSonics in Game 6 at Seattle Coliseum would put Phoenix in the finals.

"We're not like the old Suns," said Charles Barkley, one of the new Suns. "We didn't have myself or Danny Ainge. We're different now.

"Me and Danny Ainge feed on a hostile environment. The more hostile the better. We love doing things to shut (the fans) up."

Barkley, the NBA's most valuable player in his first season as a Sun, is a prime reason they have had some key road victories in the playoffs. He made the shot in Game 6 at San Antonio that sent Phoenix to the Western Conference finals, after the Suns had won twice at the Forum while facing elimination by the Lakers in the first round.

Seattle won both regular-season meetings at Seattle, but the SuperSonics and Suns split their previous two games here in this series.

"We were on our deathbed in Utah in the first round," Seattle Coach George Karl said, referring to victories in the last two games against the Jazz after having been at a 2-1 deficit. "We like the deathbed in Seattle."

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