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Suns hope to contain Clippers' big men

LOS ANGELES -- Though formal practice was over, Elton Brand
and Chris Kaman weren't finished, receiving passes from Los Angeles
Clippers assistant coach Kim Hughes, taking dozens of shots from
close range and making most of them.

If Thursday's scene sounds familiar, it should. That was pretty
much the story a night earlier in Phoenix -- the Los Angeles big men
making shot after shot in a 122-97 victory over the Suns to even
the Western Conference semifinal series 1-1.

No defense didn't hinder the Clippers much more than the Suns'
defense did.

"That's what happens when they go small," Kaman said. "They
get hurt in the post. Inside, they don't [match up]. They know
that. They want us to match up with them. You've got two 3's [small
forwards] guarding a 4 [power forward] and a 5 [center]."

It didn't matter in the opener of the Western Conference
semifinals, when the Suns ran the Clippers ragged in winning a
130-123 decision.

Game 2 was another story, and at least some of the inside
success of Brand and Kaman could be attributed to the fine outside
shooting of guards Cuttino Mobley (nine of 16) and Sam Cassell
(eight of 12).

Oh, and there was the staggering rebounding differential:
Clippers 57, Suns 26.

"It's the same always," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said of his
team's size disadvantage. "It's going to come down to, can we run
so hard and make the extra effort, and tip balls out? We didn't
have that extra pop in our step, and we're not going to win if we
don't.

"There will be times when this will happen. We can't get down
on it. We can't start worrying about it. These guys are good.
They're deep and they're big. We're going to have to fight them.
We've just got to summon up the juices come next game and go at it.
"

The next game will be played Friday night at Staples Center,
where the Clippers went 27-14 during the regular season and 3-0
against Denver in the first round of the playoffs.

Brand, who shot 18 of 22 for 40 points in Game 1, went 10 of 16
for 27 points in Game 2. Kaman was six of eight for 14 points, and also
had 16 rebounds.

"When we're hitting, we take pressure of EB, we take pressure
off Chris," Mobley said of the Clippers' perimeter shooters.

"EB is a monster down there. Kaman is a monster," Clippers
swing man Corey Maggette said.

So what can the Suns do in Game 3?

"Hopefully, we can get this series longer and longer to where
hopefully we can run their legs out from under them," two-time NBA
MVP Steve Nash said.

"We'll adjust a little bit and try to do a better job in
certain situations," D'Antoni said. "We've got to take something
away."

And, no question, they'd better improve on the boards.

"I'm sure that's going to be their emphasis -- to box out,"
Brand said. "When we're hitting on all cylinders like that, it's
tough to stop us. It's tough to guard us."

The Clippers wrestled homecourt advantage away from the Suns by
splitting in Phoenix, but Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy isn't
impressed.

"Home-court is out the window as far as I'm concerned," he
said. "The way they stroke it, they can win anywhere. I'm sure
they'll do certain things [in Game 3] -- a lot of it is more about
execution. We know what each other can do."

Before the best-of-seven series began, both sides pointed to
tempo as the key. Dunleavy indicated Thursday he didn't have a
problem with his team doing some running "as long as it results in
layups or free throws."

Dunleavy said the pressure will be on his team Friday night.

"It's always on the home team," he said. We've got to hold
home court. I expect us to come out strong. If we're successful,
that will be us on notice for Game 4."

D'Antoni agreed, saying: "You can make a case that they have to
win these games [in Los Angeles], so there's more pressure on them
than us."

Mobley scored 23 points after being held to three by Raja Bell
in Game 1.

"I've got a tough defender on me," Mobley said. "He's a tough
defender who uses his brain. He's making his mark, he's playing
against tough guys. He's a hard worker. I'm giving him props
because he's been like that since he came into the league."

Bell was the center of controversy last week, when he committed
a flagrant foul against Lakers star Kobe Bryant and was suspended
for a game.

While Mobley gave Bell props, Dunleavy didn't.

When a reporter said something to the Clippers' coach about Bell
being a hard-nosed defender and a contributor at the other end of
the court as well, Dunleavy replied: "I don't know about
hard-nosed. He flops a lot. He goes down pretty easy. But he can
shoot the ball."

Regarding Bell in the Suns-Lakers series, Dunleavy said: "I
thought he went down pretty easy."