Suns Rising

During their decade-long run as the NBA's model franchise, the San Antonio Spurs seemed like they often could flip a switch once the playoffs began. With the way they've looked lately, just getting there might be an issue.

The Spurs (28-16) look to avoid their first four-game losing streak in more than four years on Thursday when they continue their nine-game road trip against the Phoenix Suns, who are looking for their eighth win in nine games.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Phoenix –7.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 201 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix –7.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

San Antonio was the third seed in the Western Conference in last year's playoffs, but got the best of the favored Suns in the conference semifinals, winning the series in six games en route to its fourth NBA title in nine seasons.

Things started off well enough for the Spurs in 2007-08, as they opened 17-3 and looked every bit like the defending champions. But since Dec. 11, San Antonio is just 11-13, and has dropped three straight games.

They haven't lost four consecutive games since Nov. 28-Dec. 3, 2003.

"We're not playing good," guard Manu Ginobili said. "The worst part is with the kind of record we have now and the way we're playing, I don't see that we're playing with a sense of urgency. You need to play every game like it's Game 7 of the finals and we're not."

As the Spurs have struggled - they are just 8-11 on the road - Southwest Division rivals Dallas and New Orleans have pulled ahead of the defending champs. Just eight games separate the best team in the Western Conference from the worst, and the Spurs have fallen to the sixth seed.

Injuries have played a part in San Antonio's inconsistency. Ginobili and Tim Duncan have missed time as has Tony Parker, who sat out Tuesday's 88-85 loss at Seattle to rest a bone spur in his left heel.

Parker, averaging 19.2 points and 6.1 assists, won't play in Phoenix and there is no timetable for his return. San Antonio, also missing 3-point specialist Brent Barry (calf), is 1-4 without Parker in the lineup this season.

"They're going to come in wounded and desperate and needing a win and so that's probably when they're the most dangerous," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. "We know that at the end of the year they'll be right there with the best teams and you've got to go through them, they're the champs."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was not about to use Parker's absence as an excuse for the his team's loss Tuesday to the lowly SuperSonics, who ended a 14-game losing streak.

"That's irrelevant. That had nothing to do with it," Popovich said. "Teams lose guys and have nicks all the time. The Sonics played the Spurs and the Sonics won. That's the bottom line."

With Parker missing due to a sprained ankle on Dec. 17, Phoenix (33-13) won 100-95 at San Antonio despite Duncan's 36 points.

It was the Suns' first regular-season win in San Antonio in eight tries, and it came in the teams' first meeting since Phoenix had its season ended by the Spurs in May.

Not that revenge was a motivating factor.

"A win is a win, it doesn't matter if it's the Spurs or any other team," Suns forward Shawn Marion said at the time.

The Suns have won three straight and seven of eight, including a 125-92 rout of Atlanta on Tuesday - their most lopsided victory this season.

Amare Stoudemire has been on a tear for Phoenix, averaging 25.8 points in the last four games while shooting 72.7 percent from the field.

Stoudemire is shooting a career-best 59.5 percent this season, one of the top five marks in the NBA.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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