L.A. Clippers 118, Phoenix 106
LOS ANGELES, May 18 (Ticker) --
The Los Angeles Clippers have come to expect offense from Elton Brand
. But Quinton Ross
Brand scored 30 points and Ross added a career-high 18 as the hot-shooting Clippers forced Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals with a 118-106 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
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missed one shot and added 25 points for the sixth-seeded Clippers, who are one win away from the franchise's first appearance in the conference finals. That win will have to come on the home floor of the second-seeded Suns, who face their second Game 7 in as many series.
"It is going to be tough," Ross said. "We have to play in their house. We have to come out like we did tonight, be focused and play hard. ... Right now we just don't want to go home. We want to keep playing, and for us to do that we are going to have to take care of business on Monday."
Facing elimination, the Clippers were counting on a big game from Brand, who came in averaging better than 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in the series, overwhelming Phoenix's front line with his size and strength. It was no different Thursday as Brand made 14-of-21 shots, adding 12 rebounds, three assists and five blocks, torturing the smallish Suns.
"We feel we have enough talent to compete with, of course, the Suns," Brand said. "But if we can close this out, we feel we can compete with anyone in the West."
However, the offensive explosion from Ross was totally unexpected. A second-year swingman known for his defense, Ross had scored just 23 points in the series and had been replaced in the starting lineup by Maggette, who provides more offense.
Back in the starting lineup, Ross responded with his customary credible defensive job on NBA MVP Steve Nash
, who had a quiet 17 points and 11 assists. Ross also made 9-of-14 shots, making the Suns pay for doubling off him by repeatedly knocking down mid-range jumpers.
"Quinton Ross was terrific," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy
said. "We felt we had a good post matchup against Steve and that he would score in the low post. People talk about his lack of offense, but he's got offense. He averaged 18 points per game in college. It was great for us for him to come alive tonight."
"They were throwing the ball down to Elton and he's getting double-teamed," Ross said. "We have to make them pay for that."
The lineup change also seemed to help Maggette, who came off the bench to make 7-of-8 shots - including LA's only two 3-pointers - and 9-of-9 free throws.
"This whole series has been tough," Maggette said. "It's been a hard fight and both teams are playing well."
scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and Sam Cassell
also scored 15 points for the Clippers, who were a searing 61.5 percent (48-of-78) overall and again pounded the Suns on the boards, 48-28.
"We didn't necessarily play our game as well as we could have," Nash said. "For some reason, we lacked energy. I don't know if it's all the games we have played or if collectively we didn't have the foresight or the energy to play as effectively as we have defensively. But we have to play better defensively."
scored 34 points and Leandro Barbosa
added 25 for the defenseless Suns, who shot 44 percent (38-of-87) and never were within two possessions in the second half. They fired 31 3-pointers, making 13.
"I thought we had a good chance tonight," said Marion, who added nine rebounds and six steals. "But they just didn't want to go home. Right now I think everyone is excited about these couple of days we are going to have off. We just have to rest, make some adjustments and come out on Monday."
The first half belonged to Ross, who scored 16 points. He had a pair of buckets in a 16-3 surge that gave the Clippers a 29-21 lead late in the first quarter and scored eight points in the final five-plus minutes of the second period, helping LA push the margin to 62-50 at halftime.
"Quinton Ross played an excellent game," Brand said. "A lot of people are saying am I surprised at his game. I am not surprised at all. I see him in practice day after day completing big shots like that, posting up and do the things he's done tonight. We are very proud of the way he stepped up."
The Suns trailed by 16 points late in the third quarter before Barbosa triggered a closing 11-2 run with a pair of 3-pointers, cutting the deficit to 88-81 entering the final period. But the fourth quarter belonged to Brand and Maggette, who combined for 22 points, including the Clippers' first 17. A turnaround jumper by Brand gave Los Angeles its largest lead at 105-88 with 6:31 to go.
Cassell, a proven playoff veteran with two championship rings, knows that the Clippers will come with everything they have in Game 7.
"It's going to be a dog fight on Monday," Cassell said. "It's going to be a great basketball game, so if you don't have cable television, you better get it right away."