Weary Suns regroup after Clippers force Game 7

Updated: May 21, 2006, 10:00 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns wanted to close out their Western Conference semifinal against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

But the Suns looked on the bright side after the Clippers beat them 118-106 to tie the series 3-3, forcing a decisive Game 7 on Monday night in Phoenix.

"A lot of emotional stuff went down in the playoffs, and now we'll have three days to recharge," coach Mike D'Antoni said after Game 6. "We'll try to figure some things out, and I think this is the best shot we have to get to the conference finals with a game in Phoenix, with three days' rest. I don't think we could ask for anything more."

D'Antoni gave his weary team Friday off. The Suns will have light practices Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday's game was the Suns' 13th in 26 days. That's not an unusual load -- Phoenix played 10 regular-season games in 18 days in April -- but the playoffs are more taxing than the regular season. The Suns, the second seed in the Western Conference, spent a lot of emotional energy in rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.

They haven't had a chance to catch their breath against the Clippers, who have tied the series three times.

"It's been a great series," Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley said. "I think they're a little tired."

No Suns player needs the rest more than point guard Steve Nash, the NBA's two-time MVP. Nash has had back problems, and this week he complained of tired legs. Tired legs often translate into poor shooting.

In the regular season, Nash shot 51.2 percent from the floor and 43.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. In this series, Nash is shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and 21.7 percent (5-of-23) from 3-point range.

"Obviously, I'm not 100 percent, but I don't expect to be any time soon so I'm not really concerned with my health," Nash said. "I just have to find a way to get it done regardless."

Nash happened to play for the last team to win two Game 7s in the same postseason. The 2003 Dallas Mavericks beat both Portland and Sacramento 4-3 before losing to San Antonio in the conference finals. The Suns' Raja Bell was also a member of that Dallas squad.

If the series' form holds, it's Phoenix's turn to win. Beginning with the Suns' opening-game win here, the clubs have alternated victories throughout the series.

"It's going to be a dogfight on Monday," Los Angeles guard Sam Cassell said. "It's going to be a great basketball game, so if you don't have cable television, you better get it right away."

The Pacific Division champion Suns had home-court advantage in each of their first two series. It paid off in the first round when Phoenix drubbed the Los Angeles Lakers 121-90 in Game 7 last week in Phoenix. They hope it will pay more dividends Monday night.

"It's tough, but this is what you play 82 regular-season games for," Bell said. "That is why you go out there every night and bust your butt for is to position yourself to have a Game 7 on your home court."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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