Parker clinches victory with late push as Spurs add to Suns' road woes

SAN ANTONIO -- Tony Parker had another big game and the Phoenix Suns had another loss. How long those trends keep up may decide where each winds up come playoff time.

Putting away the Suns with 12 points in the fourth quarter, Parker notched his fourth 30-point performance in his last seven games and the San Antonio Spurs sent Phoenix home 0-for-4 on its road swing with a 103-98 win Sunday.

Averaging 25.6 points since the All-Star break, Parker sealed San Antonio's third win this season over the slumping Suns with a one-handed runner with 26.2 second left.

The Suns fell further back in the Western Conference playoff picture with about six weeks left. San Antonio, meanwhile, reinforced its No. 2 place in the West with the win. The Spurs have done so despite not having Manu Ginobili the past 11 games and a brief spell without Tim Duncan, who had 17 points and 15 rebounds against the Suns.

"Because Manu is hurt and Timmy had some problems with his knee, I'm just trying to be very aggressive and give us a chance," Parker said. "Because in the Western Conference, it's so tight, we have to win every home game and make sure we go in the right direction."

Going in the wrong direction is Phoenix, which fell four games behind Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West. Shaquille O'Neal, held to 14 points after averaging nearly 30 in his previous four games, said the loss was "the story of our season."

Asked if his team can make the playoffs, Shaq said, "We have to."

He went on to espouse some trivia about Parker.

"Tonight, we went back and forth, and Mr. Parker -- who is from Belgium and I thought he was from France -- he just heated up there," O'Neal said.

Roger Mason had 18 points for the Spurs and Michael Finley had 11, eight of which came in the fourth.

Steve Nash led the Suns with 23 points and 11 assists. Leandro Barbosa had 20 points off the bench and hit all four of his 3-point attempts.

"We're in desperate position," Nash said. "Let's do our best, not panic."

The loss wrapped up a rough week for the Suns. What started with a loss in Orlando that began a weeklong "Flop Flap" between Shaq and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy ended with Phoenix limping through one of its worst slides this season.

The Suns also fell to 6-6 under new coach Alvin Gentry after going 6-2 in the weeks after Phoenix fired Terry Porter during the All-Star break. The four consecutive losses tie a season high for the Suns.

The Suns have the Mavericks coming to town Tuesday before hosting East-leading Cleveland on Thursday.

"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."

Phoenix cut a 13-point halftime deficit to four to start the fourth quarter behind eight points from Shaq. Phoenix then continued clawing back and took an 82-81 lead with 7:42 to go when Hill knocked down an open 3-pointer from the corner.

But a layup by Parker and a jumper from Finley put San Antonio back ahead 85-82. Parker pushed the lead to five on a jumper, then delivered the final blow on his arching one-hander to put San Antonio ahead 100-93 with under 30 seconds remaining.

Parker finished 13-of-22 from the field and had nine assists. He hit six of his seven shots in the fourth quarter.

"Tony's been carrying us for a while now," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Showing confidence in his shot, running the team, coming down to the other end playing great D. He's been real special."

Ime Udoka added 11 off the bench for San Antonio. Matt Barnes had 13 for Phoenix.

The Spurs have won two straight to hold a narrow lead over Houston and New Orleans in the Southwest Division. The Los Angeles Lakers visit San Antonio on Thursday in the last regular season meeting of the West's top teams.

San Antonio may not be able to test new addition Drew Gooden against the Lakers. Gooden, signed by the Spurs this week after buying out his contract in Sacramento, continues to sit out with a groin injury that has limited him to just two games since Jan. 19.

Game notes
The Suns got a kick out of watching an early 1990s video of a boyish and comparatively lithe O'Neal, who attended high school in San Antonio. "It looks like the new Shaq ate that Shaq," Gentry quipped before the game. ... Popovich said recent tests on Ginobili's injured right ankle showed signs of healing but that his star sixth man will still likely sit out another one or two weeks.