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
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
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."
"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.
"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.
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