LOS ANGELES, May 14 (Ticker) -- Of all the changes made by Los Angeles
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, playing Sam Cassell down the
stretch made the biggest difference.
Cassell ignored an early sprained ankle to sink a clutch
3-pointer in the final minute as the Clippers evened their
Western Conference semifinal series at two games each with a
114-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
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Elton Brand had 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and
Cassell added 28, 11 and nine for the sixth-seeded Clippers, who
never trailed after the first quarter and fought off a frantic
rally by the second-seeded Suns, who reverted to their
"This morning (Kaman) came into practice and said, 'I can't lift
it' and we had chiropractors, doctors, everybody was looking at
it to see if they could help him out this afternoon and before
the game," Dunleavy said. "We took it down to the wire trying
to treat him to see if he could go and he just wasn't able to
Both moves paid dividends as Radmanovic scored 13 points and
Maggette contributed 18 and 15 rebounds while forcing Suns
superstar guard Steve Nash to play defense.
"Corey came into his own with his rebounding and scoring
tonight," Dunleavy said. "His ability to get out in the open
court got him to the free-throw line, which is just good for
"It was all a question of matchups for us," Brand said. "It
forced Nash to guard someone and not be their best matchup."
However, neither move had the effect of playing Cassell for most
of the final period. The veteran point point guard has two
championships rings and more playoff experience than anyone on
the Clippers but sat for most of the fourth quarter in Game
"I was given some opportunities to hit big shots down the
stretch," Cassell said. "I try take on the leadership role as
the season goes on."
With the season on the line, Dunleavy went with Cassell and was
rewarded. Radmanovic and Cassell made 3-pointers to cap a 12-3
surge that gave the Clippers a 106-93 lead with 5:54 remaining.
However, Los Angeles went cold and Phoenix fought back, closing
to 106-105 with 1:12 left on a 3-pointer and a swooping layup by
Leandro Barbosa, who scored 15 points.
Brand ended a scoreless drought of nearly five minutes by
sinking a jumper from the left wing with 56 seconds to play. He
made 13-of-24 shots as he again dominated the interior.
"It was a disappointment to have to hit a shot like that, being
up 13 with five minutes," Brand said. "Let me hit it a little
bit earlier and keep a cushion."
Tim Thomas missed a potential tying 3-pointer and Cassell
struck, firing a 3-pointer from the left side over 6-7 Shawn Marion that made it 111-105 with 27 seconds to go.
"It was a play for Elton Brand, but Tim Thomas did a great job
of pushing him off the box," Cassell said. "I think the shot
clock was winding down, so I just tried to line it up."
As they did in their 25-point win in Game 2, the Clippers
dominated inside with a 55-37 advantage in rebounds and 18
Shaun Livingston provided a lift with 11 points off the bench
for the Clippers, who shot 49 percent (42-of-86) and committed
just nine turnovers.
Raja Bell made seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 33
points for the Suns, who shot 45.5 percent (40-of-88) and
committed just five turnovers.
"I was getting more shooting opportunities," Bell said. "I was
trying to make the best out of every opportunity that I was
However, Bell did not get much help. His teammates were just
3-of-24 from behind the arc and the trio of Nash, Thomas and Marion combined for just two baskets in the second half.
Nash, the NBA MVP, was relatively quiet for the third straight
game with eight points and 11 assists. Thomas and Marion
combined for 51 points and 33 rebounds in Game 3 but just 27
and 16 on Sunday.
"We try to double-team (Nash)," Dunleavy said. "We try not to
triple-team him but he is so good that he gets by two guys and
we need our third man to pick him up."
Dunleavy's changes first appeared to backfire as the Clippers
fell into a 9-2 hole. Things appeared to get worse when Cassell
twisted his left ankle after stepping on Marion's foot, but he
immediately responded with a 3-pointer that gave LA its first
lead at 17-16.
Maggette scored eight points in the first quarter as the
Clippers opened a 33-28 advantage.
"I think they are going to have to make an adjustment if I
start," Maggette said.
Maggette added another eight in the second period, when Los
Angeles received a boost from Brand and a tremendous spark from
The second-year guard ran the offense, tracked down a loose ball
and beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer, and tipped in a miss
just before the horn to build a 61-51 lead.
Despite three 3-pointers and 15 points by Bell in the third
quarter, the Suns could only close to 90-82 entering the final
period because Brand continued to dominate inside with 12