Clippers cool off Suns to force Game 7

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Elton Brand and the Clippers became the
second team from Los Angeles to take the Phoenix Suns to the limit
in these playoffs.

Unlike the Lakers, the Clippers will take some momentum into
Game 7.

Brand had 30 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, Corey Maggette came off the bench to score 13 of his 25 points in the
fourth quarter, and the Clippers beat the Suns 118-106 Thursday
night to even the Western Conference semifinal series at three
games apiece.

"After six games in the playoffs and four in the regular
season, we know each other pretty well," Brand said. "It comes
down to who plays the best in Game 7."

The Suns seemed a step slower than usual at times,
understandable since they've played every other day since April 26
-- a total of 12 games in 22 days.

"I'll definitely give them credit for a terrific game," Suns
star Steve Nash said. "It just didn't seem like we had a lot of
pop tonight."

The Suns will get some time off now, since Game 7 isn't until
Monday night in Phoenix, where they beat the Clippers in two of the
three previous playoff meetings, including a 125-118
double-overtime triumph in Game 5.

The Clippers sounded like they can use the time off, too.
Neither team will practice Friday.

"Sam Cassell's legs are tired, and he's 58, so I think the days
off will help him," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said with a

Cassell, actually 36, said he could have used some extra time
off after extending himself in Tuesday night's double-overtime

"It took its toll on me," Cassell said after getting 15 points
and eight assists but committing six of his team's 19 turnovers.

"I want the championship for us. My crew is ready," he said.
"You have to take advantage of these opportunities because you
never know when they're going to come back."

The teams have alternated victories in the series, with the Suns
winning Games 1, 3 and 5 and the Clippers winning Games 2, 4 and 6.

The Lakers took a 3-1 lead in the first round before the Suns
came back, becoming the eighth NBA team to overcome such a deficit.

The home team has a 76-17 advantage in NBA playoff Game 7s,
including Phoenix's 121-90 victory over the Lakers on May 6. But
the Clippers played the Suns tough in all three postseason games in
Phoenix, winning one and coming close in the other two.

"We have no road fear at all," Dunleavy said. "We feel we can
play with anybody."

The Suns are trying to reach the Western Conference finals for
the second straight season and the eighth time overall. They lost
to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in five games in the
conference finals last spring.

The Clippers have won two playoff series in their history, and
are looking to make it past the second round for the first time.

Quinton Ross, starting in place of Maggette, added a career-high
18 points and Chris Kaman had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the
Clippers, who shot 61.5 percent and outrebounded the Suns 48-28.

"We just couldn't stop them," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said.
"I don't know if it's energy, but they played well. Give them
credit, they played a good game. We got ourselves in trouble
because we didn't make shots.

"You play all year to get home-court advantage, and we're at
home in Phoenix."

Shawn Marion had 34 points, nine rebounds and six steals to lead
the Suns, who shot 44 percent. Leonardo Barbosa added 25 points,
Nash had 17 points and 11 assists, Boris Diaw had 14 points, nine
rebounds and seven assists and Raja Bell scored 13.

"We have to figure out something by Monday," Barbosa said.
"If we don't, we're done."

Bell, who averaged 22.2 points and shot 55.6 percent in the
first five games of this series, shot 2-of-9 in this game. And Tim
Thomas, a big factor for the Suns throughout the playoffs, was held
to three points.

Maggette scored 10 points, including the Clippers' only two
3-pointers of the game during a 17-7 run to begin the fourth
quarter, giving the Clippers a 105-88 lead.

"I felt some of their guys were tired," Maggette said. "I
just tried to attack."

The Clippers scored six straight points for a 16-point lead late
in the third quarter -- the largest of the game to that point. It
was 86-70 when Barbosa made two 3-pointers and Marion another in a
70-second span to draw the Suns within seven. But that's as close
as the Suns would get in the second half.

Ross scored 16 points in the first half -- one more than his
previous career high in two seasons plus these playoffs.

Game notes
The Suns have played 10 games in Staples Center this season
-- two against the Lakers and Clippers in the regular season, and
three against each team in the playoffs. They had a 4-6 record. ...
Elgin Baylor, the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations
since 1986, was presented with the Sporting News NBA Executive of
the Year award before the game. ... Nash made a 3-pointer late in
the first quarter to snap an 0-for-14 drought from beyond the arc.
He hadn't made one since Game 1 of this series. ... The Suns and
Clippers are the highest-scoring teams during the postseason, with
both averaging over 105 points. ... Marion scored over 30 points
only once in the first 43 playoff games of his career -- a
career-high 38 at Dallas last May. He has scored at least 30 in
three of his last four games. ... The Suns are the first team to go
seven games in each of the first two rounds since Dallas did so in