Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/28/12
PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns barged into March as aspiring Western Conference lions and were hoping to come out like expertly-tuned Lamborghinis or something. But their recent fast-lane chase for a playoff seed went skidding off the road Tuesday night, courtesy of the San Antonio Spurs. "I have a lot of respect for them," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of the Spurs before the 107-100 loss, "but they've caused a lot of heartache here." And the usual heartbreakers -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- were the starring perpetrators, combining for 63 points in the Suns' fifth defeat through 16 games this month. "If you wanna beat 'em," Gentry said of San Antonio's veteran triad, "you better find out how to guard those guys." For the record, the figuring continues. But so does Phoenix's uphill climb to find a playoff ticket. Now 25-25, the Suns wasted the Houston Rockets' loss to the Dallas Mavericks one night after the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Rockets picked up victories. They also wasted a career-high 32 points from Shannon Brown, who was working as a starter while Grant Hill (right knee inflammation) took Tuesday night off. "I wanted to come out and be aggressive," Brown said. "I just wanted to come out, play hard, play within the flow of what's going on and I wish we could have come out with the win." Still occupying 10th place in the conference, the Suns' final 16 games include 12 dates with teams currently sitting ahead of them in the standings. Wednesday night's game against the Clippers in Los Angeles closes the March calendar for the Suns, who have six back-to-back situations remaining and seven total home games. To the anticipated good, five of their last six shifts will be at U.S. Airways Center. "Obviously, we have a tough schedule," Gentry said, "but, hey, that's what's out there, so that's what we have to deal with." On Tuesday, they also had to deal with a fourth-quarter sputter that took them from one point down (84-83) after three quarters to deficits reaching as many as a dozen. They also allowed the Spurs to collect 15 offensive rebounds for the game, which San Antonio converted into 18 second-chance points. "It killed us," Gentry said of his team's failure to secure the defensive glass. "It's kind of like we've done in the past. That's a little deflating." With Brown -- who made 11 of 18 shots, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range -- and the other starters on R&R to open the final quarter, the Suns weren't able to generate many legitimate scoring opportunities. Half of their 22 bench points for the entire game were provided in the second quarter by Sebastian Telfair, who appeared to be caught up in a abbreviated one-on-one showdown with Parker. But Telfair didn't provide much steam in the fourth, and second-unit scoring threat Michael Redd -- who provided Phoenix with 25 points in a recent victory -- failed to scratch the entire night. By the time Steve Nash (16 points, 8 assists) returned, the Spurs were rolling, and rescuing the momentum from a team of such high caliber is rare. Although Marcin Gortat (21 points, 14 rebounds) battled Duncan, the Suns managed only 9 points combined from Channing Frye (7 on 3-of-9 shooting) and Jared Dudley (2 on 1 of 4 from the floor). "I think we just didn't play well enough," Nash said. " We got close, we kept ourselves in the game for a long time and couldn't ever really get more than that 5 or 6-point lead, and they came flying back."
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