Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/21

Game 1: Sunday, November 21st
Game 2: Saturday, January 8th
Game 3: Wednesday, February 23rd
Game 4: Friday, April 15th

Clippers 101

(23-31, 6-21 away)

Suns 118

(42-13, 20-6 home)

    7:00 PM ET, February 23, 2005

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    LAC 26 23 24 28101
    PHX 29 31 28 30118

    Top Performers

    LAC: C. Maggette 20 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl

    PHX: J. Johnson 22 Pts, 6 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Nash's replacement scores season-high 22

    PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash didn't play and Amare Stoudemire was in foul trouble. Usually, that would mean big problems for the Phoenix Suns.

    Not this time, not against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.

    Leandro Barbosa, playing in place of the injured Nash, scored a season-high 22 points, helping the Suns hand the Clippers their eighth consecutive loss, 118-101 Wednesday night.

    Barbosa, who was averaging only 5.8 points per game in brief relief appearances of Nash -- sidelined with a strained left hamstring -- scored nine straight points in the first period and surpassed his previous season high of 19 early in the fourth period with a 3-pointer.

    "I'm going to call him 'Young Triggerman Jr.' now," teammate Quentin Richardson said of Barbosa.

    Barbosa said he didn't find out he was starting until the pregame introductions.

    He credited his teammates for his big game.

    "The guys gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "Also, my coach gave me a lot of confidence. I had a little more playing time than usual and I felt very comfortable. I just let a lot of things happen and tonight, everything good happened to me."

    The victory over the depleted Clippers gave the Suns a 42-13 record and assured them of a winning season with 27 games remaining. It also was their first win over Los Angeles in their last four meetings at America West Arena and their first this season in four games without Nash in the lineup.

    The loss ended a disastrous nine-game road trip -- the longest in the NBA this season -- for the Clippers, whose only victory during the journey came in their opening game against Memphis.

    Joe Johnson also scored 22 points for the Suns, Richardson added 18 and Stoudemire had 17, including 13 in the last quarter. With Stoudemire in early foul trouble, Steven Hunter was a big plus off the bench, tying his career high with 10 rebounds, scoring nine points and blocking four shots.

    "I was most happy with the rebounding and the blocked shots, because that's what the team needs," Hunter said. "With Steve out and Amare in foul trouble, this (win) was big."

    Bobby Simmons led Los Angeles with 23 points, Corey Maggette added 20 and Elton Brand had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

    "They have a lot of weapons and Barbosa plays and leads the team in scoring," Brand said. "They got out there and got steals off our turnovers and poor shot selection and just ran.

    "This trip was terrible."

    Earlier in the season, when the Suns played three games without Nash, they averaged a meager 87.3 points per game and lost all three. During that time, they appeared out of sync without their All-Star playmaker, who leads the league in assists.

    This time, they had no problems. Their fast break worked to perfection and they easily surpassed their NBA-leading average of 110.2 points per game.

    The Suns overwhelmed the Clippers with a barrage of 3-pointers in the first half and took a 60-49 lead at intermission. During the first two periods, they hit eight of 15 treys, including three by Richardson, the league leader in 3-pointers made. In contrast, the Clippers, last in the NBA in 3-pointer, connected on only one.

    Richardson finished the half with 14 points, and Jim Jackson, coming off the bench, scored 10. Brand and Simmons each had 13 points for the Clippers and Maggette scored 10. Brand also had nine rebounds.

    Stoudemire, the Suns' leading scorer at 26.2, got into early foul trouble, picking up his third personal with 26 seconds gone in the second period, and had only two points, both on free throws, at halftime. He hit one field goal in the third quarter before being tagged with his fourth foul at the 1:41 mark.

    The Suns took command with a 12-0 run during a 2:47 span early in the second period, turning a 29-28 lead into a 41-28 advantage. Walter McCarty began the spurt with a 3-pointer and Jackson capped it with another shot from long range.

    Playing their usual frenetic style, the Suns never let the Clippers get closer than eight points in the third period, and twice built leads as much as 16. By the end of the quarter, the Suns led 88-73.< ^Notes@: The Clippers were short-handed in the backcourt because of the absence of Marko Jaric (stress fracture right foot), Kerry Kittles (degenerative disc lower back) and Shaun Livingston (torn rib cartilage). ... Phoenix's scoring average of more than 110 points per game is the best in the league since Orlando averaged 110.9 during the 1994-95 season. ... Richardson has made more 3-pointers (172) than the entire Clippers' team (155). ... Noted recording artist Lou Rawls sang the national anthem. ... The Clippers need to finish 18-10 to avoid their 12th consecutive losing season. Their last non-losing season was 1992-93, when they were 41-41.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 101 118
    FGM-FGA 42-96 (.438) 45-80 (.563)
    3PM-3PA 1-7 (.143) 10-22 (.455)
    FTM-FTA 16-25 (.640) 18-27 (.667)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 18-43 11-49
    Assists 18 22
    Turnovers 12 15
    Steals 6 10
    Blocks 1 11
    Fast Break Points 8 25
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 22 (2/0)
    Largest Lead 2 21

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Corey Maggette Maggette
    Points: 20
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0
    Joe Johnson Johnson
    Points: 22
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1