Brand, Maggette Lift Clippers Past Suns
L.A. Clippers 119, Phoenix 105
PHOENIX, April 5 (Ticker) -- Elton Brand put the Los Angeles Clippers on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Brand had 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Clippers posted a 119-105 victory over the Phoenix Suns in a matchup of the top two teams in the Pacific Division.
"I am glad we are playing these tough games down the stretch," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. said. "That is the type of competition we will get in the playoffs and this will help us."
"We need to win one more game to qualify but it is great for our mindset," Brand said. "It is definitely a statement."
After suffering a 126-95 drubbing here on March 15, the Clippers were a far different team in this one. They held a 59-55 halftime lead, then took control by outscoring the Suns, 29-16, in the third quarter.
"Last time when we were here, we were embarrassed and got blown out," Brand said. "We wanted to come in here show some pride and show some heart and play well. It is important to play well against playoff teams. To play well against the top-notch caliber teams to get our confidence up before the postseason."
Brand led the way, making 14-of-23 shots in 40 minutes.
Boris Diaw scored 24 points and Leandro Barbosa 19 for Phoenix (49-25), which holds a five-game lead over the Clippers in the division with eight contests left.
"Defensively, we still have some work to do," Diaw said. "When we play guys who are taller and stronger, like Elton Brand, if we don't have a lot of energy and can't use our quickness, we can't play them."
The Suns fell to 7-8 since posting a season high 11-game winning streak. Their magic number to clinch a second consecutive Pacific Division remains at four.
"It was a little disappointing," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "This was a game we could have closed things out and we didn't do it. We started out really nice and we just lost concentration. It was like somebody turned the lights off. We didn't play with the right amount of urgency."
With the win, the Clippers are 14 games over .500 for the first time since the 1974-75 campaign. It was their 44th victory of the season, the most since 1991-92, when they last reached the playoffs.
"This was a test for us gearing up for the playoffs and we need to figure how to beat these types of teams," Maggette said. "We need to play as hard as we can to send a message to the team."