Suns Get It Done, Roll Past Clippers

By Bob Baum
Associated Press
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

PHOENIX, May 22 -- Steve Nash was back in MVP form and the three-pointers were falling like a welcome desert rain for Phoenix.

That combination spelled a one-sided end to the playoff run of the Los Angeles Clippers and sent the Suns to the Western Conference finals for the second year in a row.

Nash, benefiting from three days of rest after 12 games in 25 days, had 29 points -- including 4 of 5 three-pointers -- and 11 assists to lead the Suns to a 127-107 Game 7 conference semifinal victory over the Clippers on Monday night.

The Suns open the conference finals Wednesday night in Dallas.

Nash, 2 for 18 on three-pointers in the previous five games as he struggled with a chronically bad back, was obviously feeling better. He made 11 of 16 shots, twisting his way to layups and moving with much more energy than in recent games.

So was the rest of his team.

Seven players were in double figures for the Suns, who shot 60 percent overall and made 15 of 27 three-pointers. Shawn Marion had 30 points, Leandro Barbosa 18, Tim Thomas 16 and Boris Diaw 14. Raja Bell and James Jones scored 10 apiece.

Elton Brand capped a magnificent playoff series with 36 points and nine rebounds, and Corey Maggette added 18 points for the Clippers.

They were the second Los Angeles team to lose decisively in a Game 7 in Phoenix in these playoffs. The Suns beat the Lakers, 121-90, in Game 7 of their first-round series 16 days earlier.

Another trip for Phoenix to the conference finals came despite the loss of all-star Amare Stoudemire for all but three games this season, coupled with the absence of injured center Kurt Thomas the last three months.

The result was an extremely small team that relied on speed, shooting and the ball-handling skills of Nash to succeed.

The Clippers, trying to make the conference finals for the first time in the franchise's mostly sorry history, fell behind in the final 37 seconds of the first quarter and never could catch up.

Phoenix stretched an eight-point halftime lead to 15 after three, then blew the game open early in the fourth.

Los Angeles cut it to six twice in the third quarter, the last at 77-71 on Quinton Ross's stuff with 8 minutes 37 seconds to go. But Diaw sank a 16-footer and Marion connected on a three-pointer to make it 82-71.

Barbosa's three-pointer put the Suns ahead, 85-75, then after Ross scored inside, Nash was fouled on a drive and Maggette was called for a technical. Nash made two of the three free throws, then scored on a fast-break pass from Barbosa to put Phoenix ahead, 89-77, with 2:26 to go in the third.

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