It's never easy, not when every game a team plays for the rest of the season seems to carry playoff implications.
The Suns needed to win Thursday night in Phoenix to climb back into a tie for eighth place--the final playoff spot--in the Western Conference with Sacramento. They have 15 games remaining, but every one seems a chance to stay in the hunt.
Or fall out.
When Danny Manning scored 10 of his 26 points in the final quarter of a 113-106 victory over San Antonio, the Suns won for the sixth time in eight games. Phoenix also move within two games of the seventh-place Clippers.
"This was another struggle for us," Phoenix Coach Danny Ainge said. "We had a tough time stopping them. We were scoring at will, but we found it difficult to stop them."
Manning finished with 26 points, and Kevin Johnson added 24 points and 15 assists for the Suns.
Cory Alexander and Vernon Maxwell scored 26 points each for San Antonio, which has lost three games in a row.
After an 82-82 tie at the end of the third quarter, John "Hot Rod" Williams' basket with 5:01 remaining in the fourth gave Phoenix a 96-93 lead and keyed a 5-0 spurt that gave the Suns control.
"The bottom line is we won, which we needed to do" Johnson said. "To be in the eighth spot after losing to Toronto and the Clippers at home and losing five straight on the East Coast trip is truly a blessing.
"But we have to go out and beat the teams we need to beat the rest of the way through."
Portland 97, Milwaukee 78--The Trail Blazers won their league-best 11th consecutive game, tying the second-longest winning streak in franchise history with a victory at Milwaukee.
Clifford Robinson and Rasheed Wallace each scored 20 points to pace the Trail Blazers, who began a five-game, seven-day Eastern trip by shooting 61%.
Vin Baker led the Bucks with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Glenn Robinson added 16 points.
Portland's longest winning streak is 16 games, set between March 20 and April 19, 1991.
Milwaukee lost for the 12th time in its last 14 games.
Seattle 123, Denver 97--Shawn Kemp had 24 points and 10 rebounds and the SuperSonics' pressure defense forced the Nuggets into a season-high 33 turnovers in a victory at Seattle.
The SuperSonics scored 45 points off the turnovers in beating Denver for the third time this season.
Orlando 100, Golden State 95--Dennis Scott's three-point basket broke a 95-95 tie with 25.6 seconds left at Orlando, and the Magic won their 13th game in 17 under Coach Richie Adubato.
Rony Seikaly made two free throws with 15.1 seconds to play to finish a 28-point night and make sure that Orlando had fully recovered from a disheartening loss at Atlanta only three days before.
There, the Magic had blown a 10-point lead in the last 48 seconds before losing in overtime.
Houston 96, Washington 90--Hakeem Olajuwon scored 26 points and led the Rockets' late fourth-quarter charge in a victory at Houston that ended the Bullets' winning streak on the road at five games.
Washington made only two baskets over the final three minutes and missed its last three shots.