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Warriors to rest Green, Iguodala against Suns

The Phoenix Suns' season will end in a week, while you could argue the Golden State Warriors' season will just be starting when the playoffs begin.

The two-time defending Western Conference champion Warriors (64-14) already have clinched a playoff spot and can wrap up the top seed in the conference with any combination of two wins and/or two losses by the San Antonio Spurs.

That could happen Wednesday night, when the Warriors visit the Suns, who are on a 12-game losing streak.

While the Warriors are facing Phoenix, the Spurs will be hosting the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams are separated by 3 1/2 games, so it seems clinching the top seed is merely a formality for Golden State.

The Warriors would love to wrap up the West as early as possible, but it's clear coach Steve Kerr has his eye on a bigger prize. Before his club's 121-107 win over Minnesota on Tuesday, he said he will be resting two of his top players -- Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala -- in Phoenix.

"The training staff told me that Draymond could really use a night off," Kerr said. "The numbers show it. I talked to Draymond and he admits it, too. He said it would probably be good, so that's what we are going to do."

Green logged 28 minutes while Iguodala played 23 when Klay Thompson scored 41 points Tuesday.

Thompson turned in his second 40-point performance of the season after the announcement that Kevin Durant is tentatively scheduled to return from a sprained knee Saturday against New Orleans.

"Sure we can," Thompson responded when asked whether the Warriors could sustain their high level of play into the playoffs. "Especially when you add one of the best players in our generation."

The Warriors have beaten the Suns 10 straight times, including three times this season by increasingly larger margins (six, 13, 29).

Leading the way has been Stephen Curry, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, who has scored at least 25 points in 11 straight games against the Suns.

The Suns are hoping Dragan Bender can take a second step toward a successful recovery. The 19-year-old returned from a 33-game absence to play 14 minutes Sunday in a 123-116 home loss to the Houston Rockets. The league's youngest player had nine points and seven rebounds in the defeat.

Bender joins a Suns lineup that already was relying heavily on three rookies, with veterans Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler having been given the rest of the season off and Brandon Knight likely done as he deals with back spasms.

They've been replaced in the spotlight by Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss and Derrick Jones Jr.

Ulis, a second-round pick, is coming off a season-best 34 points against the Rockets. Basically a third-stringer behind Bledsoe and Knight for most of the season, he has taken advantage of his greater opportunity over the last six weeks to lead all rookies in assists (7.3 per game) since the All-Star break.

Chriss (fifth at 13 points per game) and Ulis (seventh at 12) both rank among the rookie leaders in scoring since the break. The 19-year-old Chriss (he is 138 days older than Bender) recorded a season-best 13 rebounds Saturday in a loss at Portland.

Jones, who turned 20 in February, had played little until getting introduced to NBA fans at the dunk competition at the All-Star Game, where he finished second. He has since turned into one of the league's most accurate shooters, having hit 58.4 percent, including 73.7 percent (28-for-38) in home games.

The Suns will take the league's second-worst record (22-56) into the Golden State game. But that's not going to stop Bender from enjoying the moment.

"For me as a rookie, this time before the end of the season is really important to come back and get some experience before we go home," he told reporters at the Houston game Sunday night. "If you can play the rest of the season, that's the way to do it."

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