Phoenix wins series 4-3 (Game 3 of 7)

Phoenix wins series 4-3

Game 1: Monday, May 8th
Game 2: Wednesday, May 10th
Game 3: Friday, May 12th
Game 4: Sunday, May 14th
Game 5: Tuesday, May 16th
Game 6: Thursday, May 18th
Game 7: Monday, May 22nd

Suns 94

(54-28, 23-18 away)

Clippers 91

(47-35, 27-14 home)

Coverage: FSPI

7:30 PM ET, May 12, 2006

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

1 2 3 4 T
PHX 26 22 24 2294
LAC 28 20 15 2891

Top Performers

Phoenix: S. Marion 32 Pts, 19 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

Los Angeles: E. Brand 20 Pts, 9 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 5 Blk

Marion has monster night for rising Suns

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shawn Marion played the role of a big man and a little guy in the same game.

He was terrific on both counts.

Marion had 32 points and 19 rebounds, and hounded Los Angeles point guard Sam Cassell into a sub-par performance Friday night, leading the Phoenix Suns to a 94-91 victory over the Clippers and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday night at Staples Center.

The 6-foot-7 Marion made it impossible for the 6-3 Cassell to post up -- something he did successfully in the Clippers' 122-97 runaway win in Game 2. Cassell shot just 2-of-10 and scored six points on Friday.

"Sam's an old-school player -- I just tried to put a hand in his face, made sure I stayed in front of him," Marion said. "It's hard to adjust when you've got big people guarding little people. I guard everybody, so it doesn't really matter."

Cassell acknowledged his performance was hampered.

"I didn't shoot the ball well tonight; they put a bigger guy on me, which discouraged my shot a little bit," he said. "I'll be doing my homework and I will be ready for Game 4.

"They got all the spare change, we didn't, and that's why they're up 2-1 right now."

The Clippers, who shot 56.7 percent in the first two games, made just 42.2 percent of their field goal attempts in this one, while the Suns shot 37.2 percent.

The Clippers outrebounded the Suns 47-46 -- a far cry from Game 2, when they won the battle of the boards 57-26.

Marion said the improvement in rebounding was simply a matter of teamwork and effort.

"It's a lot of work for people to go in there and rebound," he said. "That's what we had to do -- go in there and be active."

The Suns had lost eight straight playoff games when scoring less than 100 points, and were 0-7 this season in games decided by three points or less.

"They can't shoot 60 percent all the time -- even with bad defense," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Shawn Marion had a huge night and we'll need that from him to move forward."

D'Antoni pointed to defense -- usually a Suns' shortcoming -- as the key to the game.

"We just grinded it out," he said. "I think there are times that we play good defense. You don't win 54 games by just outshooting people. We can play some good defense. We just do it in spots."

Some of that good defense came down the stretch, when the Suns won by outscoring the Clippers 12-6.

Marion got it started, making a 3-pointer with 2:58 remaining to tie it at 85. After a foul shot by Shaun Livingston gave the Clippers a one-point lead, Nash made two free throws and Tim Thomas added two more, putting the Suns on top 89-86 with 2:04 left.

Marion's three-point play with 49 seconds to go gave the Suns a six-point lead, but the Clippers weren't finished: Elton Brand's three-point play with 46 seconds to play and two free throws by Quinton Ross with 28 seconds left cut Phoenix's lead to one.

But the Suns ran the shot clock down before league MVP Nash, who shot just 3-of-9, made a 14-foot jumper with 3.6 seconds to go.

"The last shot was a lucky shot," Nash said. "It was perfect timing for me. You always hope to get the last chance when you have a poor performance. I was happy to do something for my guys.

"We showed more guts today, but we did not play well."

Vladimir Radmanovic, who scored 14 of his 18 points in a span of less than four minutes early in the fourth quarter, missed a 3-pointer as time wound down, and Phoenix's Boris Diaw got the rebound.

"We had to fight back uphill after we had a little comfort, but we did not fold," D'Antoni said. "Steve struggled a little, but I'll take that anytime."

Thomas had 19 points and 14 rebounds; Raja Bell, who fouled out with 2:36 left, scored 14; Nash had 12 points and 10 assists, and Diaw added 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Brand led the Clippers with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, but scored only nine after the first quarter. He had a total of 67 points in the first two games, shooting 28-of-38, but went just 7-of-17 on Friday.

Cuttino Mobley scored 14 points and Chris Kaman had 11 points and seven rebounds.

"I tried to facilitate the ball, but we missed easy shots," Brand said. "Their defense was different from what we saw during the season. We let one get away -- they took it."

A basket by Marion in the first minute of the fourth quarter gave the Suns a 74-63 lead -- largest of the game for either team.

After a basket by Kaman, Radmanovic took over, outscoring the Suns 14-2 himself to put the Clippers on top 79-76. Radmanovic made four 3-pointers and a layup during the stretch.

Game notes

Thomas moved back into Phoenix's starting lineup, replacing James Jones, who started six of the previous nine playoff games. ... The Clippers posted their three highest point totals this season in their last three games in Phoenix -- 123 in losing Game 1 of this series, 122 in winning Game 2, and 119 in a 14-point victory April 5. ... The Suns entered with a 5-0 playoff record when scoring 100 or more points and an 0-4 mark when scoring less than 100. ... The Clippers' 57-26 rebounding advantage in Game 2 was the largest margin in the playoffs since 1996, when the Bulls outrebounded the Magic by 34 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 94 91
FGM-FGA 32-86 (.372) 35-83 (.422)
3PM-3PA 7-27 (.259) 7-13 (.538)
FTM-FTA 23-26 (.885) 14-20 (.700)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-46 8-47
Assists 25 23
Turnovers 12 15
Steals 8 6
Blocks 6 9
Fast Break Points 3 7
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 26 (0/0)
Largest Lead 11 6

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Shawn Marion Marion
Points: 32
Reb: 19
Ast: 3
Stl: 4
Blk: 1
Elton Brand Brand
Points: 20
Reb: 9
Ast: 8
Stl: 2
Blk: 5