NBA Playoff Notebook: Cassell’s experience paying off for Clippers
(Sports Network) – Thirty-six-year-old Sam Cassell is having an excellent
postseason for the surprising Los Angeles Clippers. The veteran guard has hit
clutch shots and is the emotional leader for the Western Conference’s sixth
Cassell scored 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out a team-high nine
assists to help the Clippers defeat the second-seeded Suns, 114-107, at the
Staples Center. He played over 39 minutes and finished 9-of-20 from the field,
including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. The victory knotted the best-of-seven
Western Conference semifinals series at two games apiece.
The 6-3, Cassell, who won two championships as a member of the Houston Rockets
(1994, 1995), drained a clutch three-pointer with just 27 seconds remaining in
Game 4 to give the Clippers a six-point lead.
“It was a play for Elton Brand, but Tim Thomas did a great job of pushing him
off the box,” said Cassell after Game 4’s victory. “I think the shot clock was
winding down, so I just tried to line it up, and create some space for myself
since I was being guarded by Shawn Marion – a guy who can jump out of the gym.
I just had to get him off-balanced a little bit before I took the shot.”
All-Star Elton Brand continued his stellar play for the Clippers. The Duke
product scored a team-high 30 points and pulled down nine boards in Game 4. He
was 13-for-24 from the field and continued to own the low post in the series.
Corey Maggette also came up big for the Clippers, who started Brand, Maggette,
Vladimir Radmanovic, Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. Maggette, who started the
first playoff game of his career, ended with 18 points and a club-best 15
rebounds in just under 34 minutes of court time.
Starting center Chris Kaman, who is averaging 10.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in
the postseason, did not play for the Clippers in Game 4. He is bothered by a
sore right shoulder.
Starting a smaller, quicker lineup made the Clippers more effective against
the free-wheeling Suns.
“The reason for putting Corey (Maggette) into the lineup is he’s been
rebounding the ball so well,” said Clippers’ head coach Mike Dunleavy. “When
you’re playing small, we felt like playing three bigs to put us in the
position where we could counter with him on the boards and he came through
great. Fifteen boards today, fourteen boards the last game and then his
ability to get out into the open court, attack the rim and get to the free
throw line. It was a good fit for us.”
The Clippers shot 48.8 percent from the field and outrebounded the Suns,
55-37. Phoenix made 45.5 percent of its attempts from the floor in Game 4’s
Reigning MVP Steve Nash was held to just eight points on 3-for-11 from the
field for the Suns. The Santa Clara product did dish out a game-high 11
assists, but was clearly off his game.
“We double, triple-team him (Nash) at times,” said Dunleavy. “We try not to
triple-team him. We’d rather just double-team him but sometimes he’s just so
good that he gets past the two guys and then the third guy comes in and that’s
where he really hurts you. He finds guys and gets great looks and with our
rotations, we’re trying to get to people and get them off their spots.
“Sometimes we’ve been good, sometimes bad, but the percentages, whether we
made them miss or they just missed on their own, I’ll take them.”
Cassell, who was acquired from Minnesota along with a lottery-protected
2006 first-round draft pick for guards Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers during
last offseason, has been a huge contributor to the Clippers’ playoff success.
He has played in 112 postseason contests during his career and his experience
has proved to be a valuable asset to the youthful Clippers.
When the Clippers need a big bucket or they are struggling, Cassell has been
there to either calm things down or hit the big shot. He has helped his
teammates believe that they are the real deal and not some fluke.