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Suns top depleted Sonics for hold No. 2 playoff spot

PHOENIX -- Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni is tinkering with his starting lineup in the last week of the regular season. The results are the same -- a Suns victory.

Shawn Marion had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Phoenix stayed two games ahead of San Antonio in the fight for the No. 2 playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 109-91 victory Wednesday night over the depleted Seattle SuperSonics.

Leandro Barbosa added 20 points as six Suns reached double figures in the team's 59th victory of the season. Amare Stoudemire had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Raja Bell scored 14 points.

Steve Nash had 11 points and nine assists.

James Jones got his third start of the season and finished with 13 points, going 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.

"It gives us a little bit bigger size to start the game, yet keeps the floor spaced for shooting," D'Antoni said of the 12th starting lineup he's used this season. "I think probably the benefit of all this is Shawn's 24 and 10. We have to have that. I think this helps him."

D'Antoni believes Marion gets more involved in the flow of the game when he starts at the so-called power forward spot.

"Coach is trying to mix it up a little bit and see if he can get a couple of players going," Marion said. "We're just trying to get a win and get ready for the playoffs."

D'Antoni kidded reporters about their repeated lineup questions, insisting it's no big deal which player starts.

"I think you guys have to work a little harder to find a story," he said. "I don't think this is a story. There's plenty of other stories to beat us up with. That's a nonstarter."

Jones agreed.

"It depends on situations and matchups regardless," he said. "We're 14 strong and our rotation is eight or nine guys. Regardless of how that mix goes down, those eight or nine guys have to be able to contribute something night in and night out. So starting or coming off the bench, it really doesn't matter to me."

Rashard Lewis scored 30 for the Sonics. Mike Wilks added a career-high 20 points in his first start in four years.

Chris Wilcox had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Sonics.

Wilks started and played 42 minutes -- tying his career high -- because Seattle's top two point guards, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson, are out with season-ending ankle injuries.

"Early he was a little apologetic, but we called timeout and he started making shots," Seattle coach Bob Hill said. "I thought he did a real good job. When you have to play as many minutes as he had to play, that was the hard part."

Wilks hopes his late-season performance shows NBA teams that he deserves to play.

"I hope that's what people are seeing," he said. "It's tough every year going to camp where you're fighting for a spot with these non-guaranteed contracts."

The Sonics also are without Ray Allen and Robert Swift.

"Oh man, we've got to go out there and fight with what we've got," Lewis said. "We're just throwing what we've got out there and trying to make it work."

The Sonics stayed close until Phoenix outscored them 13-3 to start the fourth quarter to go up 96-80. The Suns outscored Seattle 26-14 in the fourth.

Seattle shot 57 percent in the first half but still trailed 64-58 at the break, thanks mainly to Phoenix's long-range shooting. The Suns made 9-of-16 3s in the first half, eight of their last 10.

Back in a reserve role, Barbosa scored 16 points in the first half, including 4-of-5 3s. Lewis scored 19 first-half points for Seattle.

Phoenix twice built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, the last at 77-67 on Nash's driving layup with 4:51 to play. Seattle scored the next eight to cut it to two when Lewis made one of two free throws with 45 seconds left. Marion's second 3-pointer in a row gave the Suns an 83-77 lead entering the fourth.

Counting the late third-quarter spurt and the 13-3 start to the fourth, the decisive run was 19-5.

Game notes
San Antonio holds the tiebreaker with the Suns. ... Marion had not made a 3-pointer in five games. The last time he made two in one contest was March 7, 18 games ago. He was 2-for-17 on 3s the last seven games. ... The SuperSonics signed the well-traveled guard Randy Livingston to back up Wilks the final few games of the season. He was scoreless in six minutes.