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Brutal trip to Southeast ends in fourth loss

SAN ANTONIO – Four-game road trip, four games out of playoff position.

The Phoenix Suns completed a winless four-game trip through Florida and Texas by closing the journey against San Antonio much like it started in Orlando, losing a fourth-quarter lead with an uncharacteristic silent spell of offense in a 103-98 loss Sunday afternoon at AT&T Center.

“A week ago today we were kind of on top of the world,” said Suns forward Grant Hill, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. “Had some good wins, playing real well, and then you have a tough week. That’s the NBA. It can be humbling.”

Like in Orlando, the Suns led briefly again with seven-plus minutes to go after coming back from an 11-point third quarter hole.

But Phoenix missed four shots and made three of its eight turnovers on the next seven possessions to get behind by 10 again, leaving the Suns to make another mad scramble just to have a chance to win.

The Suns pulled within three points on three occasions in the final three minutes but never go the stop that would give them a shot to tie the game.

The Spurs made their final four shots, three of which came in the paint to send the Suns to their fourth consecutive loss and a four-game gap behind eighth-place Dallas in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Suns had not lost every game on a four-game road trip since 2004-05 but they had a lot more leeway then, when Phoenix was 31-4 before the skid.

Now the Suns have to beat Dallas at home Tuesday to get back within two games and give themselves a chance at winning the head-to-head series tiebreak with Dallas, should it even come into play.

Spurs guard Tony Parker scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter for his fourth 30-point game in the past eight games. Parker had help picking up the scoring load with Manu Ginobili still a week away from returning.

Parker added nine assists, helping Roger Mason to his 18 points while Tim Duncan won the post battle with Shaquille O’Neal with a 17-point, 15-rebound game. O’Neal was 6 of 16 from the field for 14 points and had five rebounds for the second consecutive game.

Asked if his team can make the playoffs, O’Neal said, “We have to.”

Steve Nash was 10 of 22 from the field, a game after needing to take 27 shots in Houston. He led the Suns in scoring with 23 points for a third consecutive game and added 11 assists.

The Suns only committed eight turnovers, just as they only had seven in a Jan. 29 loss to San Antonio at home. But Phoenix only shot 44.4 percent while San Antonio shot 50 percent.

“We’re in desperate position,” Nash said. “Let’s do our best, not panic.”

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