Link: http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/oregonia...17153312960.xml The Suns use a fourth-quarter rally to win, and Portland's season continues to slip away with a ninth loss in 10 games 01/19/04 JASON QUICK PHOENIX - For the ninth time in the past 10 games, the Trail Blazers lost, on Sunday, and once again the Blazers played well enough to win but couldn't finish down the stretch, losing 96-92 to the last-place Phoenix Suns on Sunday. And this one hurt. So much so that it brought coach Maurice Cheeks to tears .?.?. twice. Once in the postgame locker room before meeting reporters, then again after he was asked whether he had been crying, which caused him to bolt away and re-compose to compose himself in a deserted America West Arena hallway. Cheeks wasn't alone. "I cried when I came in, too," guard Derek Anderson said. "This one hurts to no end. It hits my heart and makes me sick to my stomach." Said Ruben Patterson: "I wanted to cry." Ruben Patterson said. Perhaps they are all are beginning to realizing the startling facts that are mounting: The Blazers (16-23) are off to their worst 39-game start in 28 seasons. They have lost five straight in a row, nine of 10 and are a league-worst 2-16 on the road. And despite having the second-highest payroll in the NBA, they are tied with Golden State for the second-worst record in the Western Conference. The worst record belongs to Phoenix (15-26), which has beaten the Blazers twice in the past four days. "It's not so much the losing, it's how we are losing," Wesley Person said. "We are playing so hard, but we are just coming up short. We play down to the wire, and then nothing goes our way." The last three losses have all unraveled at the end. On Sunday, the Blazers led 74-71 entering the final quarter, but they were outscored 6-0 in the final 2:26. The game-winning basket came with 18.1 seconds left when Joe Johnson rebounded an airball by Shawn Marion and laid it in. Rasheed Wallace, who went scoreless in the fourth quarter for the ninth time this season, went 0 of 7 in the fourth quarter, including three misses in the final minute that could have either tied the score or put the Blazers ahead. "We had some shots, we just couldn't convert them," Cheeks said. Sunday's loss comes came on the heels of a four-point loss to Dallas on Saturday and an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. Against Dallas, Wallace missed three shots in the final 30 seconds that could have tied the score or put the Blazers ahead, and against the Clippers, the Blazers were taken to overtime after Eddie House made a three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. But the emotions do not stop at heartbreak. And the drama doesn't end with just trade speculation that has engulfed this team. Now guard Jeff McInnis is in Cheeks' doghouse - apparently for exhibiting poor body language - to the point where McInnis did not play Sunday. against the Suns. McInnis had played in all 38 games prior to before Sunday, starting 26. He was averaging 12.0 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 47.1?percent from the field. McInnis, whose minutes had been limited to 24 and 18 who had played 18 and 24 minutes in the past two games, did not handle the demotion well, at times pouting on the sideline, but he said he found Sunday's benching unwarranted and out of the blue. Qyntel Woods assumed the backup point guard duties and played well, finishing with six points on 3 of 4 shooting and with one assist, although many of his passes resulted in baskets. Zach Randolph led the Blazers with 25 points and 11 rebounds, despite shooting 8 of 20, but his six turnovers were costly and untimely. Wallace finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in his second game back after missing four games with a sprained left ankle. Patterson was a bright spot for the third consecutive game, finishing with eight points, four rebounds, three assists and a block, while igniting and he ignited the team each time he was substituted into entered the game. However, Patterson sa id he is injured and unsure if he will be able to play Tuesday night in Sacramento because he hurt his right hip and right knee while having his fast-break dunk attempt blocked by the Suns' Amare Stoudemire. "Right now, I'm in a lot of pain," Patterson said. "I've got to get treatment and see if I can get the pain under control." Stoudemire also was injured on the spectacular play, aggravating a sprained left ankle that kept him out of 18 games. The Suns on Sunday announced that he would not accompany the team to their next two road games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver. Johnson led the Suns, who have won three in a row, with 25 points. whileMarion added 22 points and 16 rebounds. The future doesn't look much brighter for the Blazers: seven of their next nine games are on the road. "We can't throw the white flag up," Anderson said. "But we have to take a deep look at ourselves and soul-search as individuals. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror."