LOS ANGELES (AP) -- There was much more on the line than just
first place in the Pacific Division. For the Los Angeles Clippers,
it was an opportunity to prove to the Phoenix Suns that they are
For the Suns, it was a chance to extend their nine-game winning
streak. But that didn't happen, because Elton Brand wouldn't let
it. He scored 15 of his 27 points in the third quarter, grabbed 13
rebounds and had a season-high six assists Saturday night, leading
Los Angeles to a 101-91 victory that snapped a tie for the division
lead and improved the Clippers' record to 14-5.
"It takes us up a notch -- I mean, they won nine straight
games," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They're an extremely
talented team, but there's no way that either one of us could come
in here and say, `Yeah, we're supposed to win.' Their stats are
better than ours, but we were at home."
Brand also was 11-for-12 from the line, helping the Clippers
improve to 9-1 at Staples Center -- where they went 27-14 last
season. Cuttino Mobley added 25 points and Sam Cassell scored six
of his 24 points in the final minute to choke off a late Suns
rally. Chris Kaman added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"We knew they were white-hot and were winning a lot of
ballgames, but we were confident coming in," Brand said. "Even
down four at the half, we were still confident. We knew that once
we made our adjustments, we'd be OK in the second half."
The Suns, who entered the game as the NBA's highest-scoring
team, went 1-for-13 from the field in the first 8:20 of the fourth
quarter while the Clippers went on an 8-0 run that increased their
seven-point lead to 91-78 with 3:58 to play. Cassell ignited the
rally with a pair of 18-foot jumpers.
"It was a tough game for us, considering that it was our fourth
game in five nights," Phoenix's Steve Nash said. "We scrapped,
but we just struggled offensively and couldn't make any shots. We
missed a lot of shots that we can make, but they also played
The Suns, who lost reserve guard Leandro Barbosa to a knee
injury with 3:55 left and forward James Jones with a sprained right
ankle late in the first half, got as close as 93-88 with a 10-2
spurt capped by Nash's two free throws with 1:04 to play. But
Cassell iced it with a short jumper and four free throws.
"We were draining so much energy on the defensive end trying to
stop them, we couldn't score," Shawn Marion said. "We got in foul
trouble early and guys were going down with injuries, so you can
factor in a lot of stuff. But they stopped us."
Marion scored 20 points for Phoenix and Kurt Thomas had 13
points and 17 rebounds. Nash added 16 points and 11 assists.
"We wanted to keep our winning streak going, but this was a
good test for us right now," Marion said. "They're playing great
ball, just like us. We've been watching them. With the addition of
Cassell and Cat (Mobley), and Brand and Kaman playing well, they're
definitely a good team."
After squandering a nine-point lead in the first half, the
Clippers pulled ahead 75-65 with a 20-6 run capped by Cassell's
14-footer with 4:10 left in the third quarter. Boris Diaw, starting
in Amare Stoudemire's spot, picked up his fifth foul with 6:56 left
in the quarter and Brand converted both free throws before Mobley
hit a 14-footer, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws -- all in a
The Suns led 57-53 at halftime after trailing by nine points in
the final minute of the first quarter. Raja Bell, who went to the
bench less than 2½ minutes into the game after picking up his first
two fouls 8 seconds apart, capped a 13-2 run with a layup that gave
Phoenix a 54-47 lead with 2:44 left in the half.
The Clippers' next two games are against Detroit and San
Antonio, the teams that faced each other in last season's NBA
Finals. So the Clippers don't have much time to enjoy their latest
"We're not savoring it at all. We're ready to move on to
tomorrow's game with Detroit," Brand said. "Guys like Sam and
Cuttino don't get too high or too low, and I'm rolling with
The Suns had winning streaks of nine and 11 games last
season en route to a league-best 62-20 record, earning Mike
D'Antoni coach of the year honors. He was an assistant in Portland
under Dunleavy in 2000-01, two seasons after Dunleavy was named
coach of the year with the Trail Blazers. ... The Suns have played
only six road games, the fewest in the league. This game began a
stretch in which they will play nine of 12 away from home. Their
31-10 road record last season was a franchise record.
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