Clippers' task simple: Win twice or go home

Updated: May 17, 2006, 10:31 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers are doing their best to look forward -- understandable since reflecting back is so painful.

And all the analysis in the world won't help them beat the Phoenix Suns twice -- the requirement for advancing past the second round of the playoffs for the first time.

"You can't get last night back -- it's not changing," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said Wednesday of his team's 125-118 double-overtime loss in Phoenix, giving the Suns a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

"It's a really tough loss. It could have been an incredibly great win for us, down 19," Dunleavy said. "We did a bunch of things wrong that enabled them to win the game. The only thing we can do is come back and win tomorrow night.

"We don't have to be desperate, we just have to be solid."

Should the Suns win Thursday night at Staples Center, they'll advance to the conference finals for the second straight year. Should the Clippers prevail, it's back to Phoenix for a seventh and deciding game Monday night.

"We have the ability to win tomorrow night. We have the ability to win Monday night. That's not an issue," Dunleavy said.

The Clippers were in position to win Tuesday night, rallying from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to take the lead in the first overtime. But thanks mainly to Raja Bell and Shawn Marion, the Suns survived in their 11th playoff game in a span of 20 days.

"We'll just try to gather our energy up and get loosened back up and get ready to go again," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's not going to be easy, whether we have our energy or not.

"Going into their home floor, we need some luck. I think we'll have a shot to win the game."

Bell's 3-pointer from the left corner with 1.1 seconds left in the first overtime tied the game and forced the second overtime, where the Suns outscored the Clippers 14-7.

Marion had 36 points and a career playoff-high 20 rebounds while playing all but 3 minutes of a possible 58. He limped off the court with an injured left ankle in the second overtime, but returned to make a layup with 1:05 left that triggered a game-closing 6-0 run.

"I talked to him on the phone and he said he's fine," D'Antoni said of Marion, who didn't practice Wednesday, instead undergoing treatment and taking care of some personal business before the flight to Los Angeles.

With the Clippers leading 111-108 and 3.6 seconds left in the first overtime, Phoenix got the ball to Bell, who connected over Daniel Ewing.

The Clippers had a foul to give, and Dunleavy said that was the plan. But he didn't blame Ewing, and didn't regret inserting the rookie into the game for the first time.

"We've done it all year because of the quickness factor," the coach said. "That was the decision. He's been one of our top defenders on the ball. The guy made a tough shot."

Ewing said he intended to foul, but decided otherwise because he didn't want to risk doing so while Bell was in the act of shooting.

"He caught the ball in the corner and turned and shot," Ewing said. "I did the best I could, put pressure on the shooter. It was a good play for them and a bad break for us. It was judgment call. He made a tough shot. We have to live with it.

"We gave away three games. We know we can beat them."

While a couple of Los Angeles players acknowledged there was some finger-pointing after the game, Ewing said he didn't feel targeted.

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "The shot didn't win the game for them."

Sam Cassell, the Clippers' floor leader who scored 32 points, didn't speak with reporters Wednesday. He was, however, quite candid following the game.

"We had a young guy in the game. It's not his fault that Raja made his shot, but we've got to know better in that situation," Cassell said. "We've got a foul to give, we've got to put Raja Bell in the fifth row with the popcorn man, but we didn't do it."

Chris Kaman, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes despite a strained right shoulder that kept him out of Game 3, spoke openly on the subject Wednesday.

"Some fingers were pointed. We talked about it," Kaman said. "Everything's good. Nothing we haven't seen before. We have a tight-knit group.

"I don't want to talk about it -- the game's over. If we lose (Thursday night) we go home."

When asked about finger-pointing, Dunleavy replied: "Barking and stuff -- whatever. We're fine as a group."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press