Wednesday , May , 17 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Ring the Bell: Suns top Clippers in 2-OT

=== Ring the Bell: Suns top Clippers in 2-OT ===

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Shawn Marion scored 36 points and pulled down
20 rebounds in a gusty performance, as the Phoenix Suns earned a wild 125-118
victory in double-overtime over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 of their
Western Conference semifinal series.

Raja Bell’s desperation three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left sent the game
into the second overtime, and he finished with 22 points for the Suns, who
gained a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“I don’t even know what to say. Raja’s shot brought us out of the depths,”
Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We just kept battling and finding a way.”

Game 6 is scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles.

“So many guys just gutted it out,” D’Antoni said. “We weren’t brilliant, but a
lot of time in the playoffs, it’s not about being pretty and making all the
right plays. It’s about heart, perseverance and a little sweat, and I think
we did that.”

Tim Thomas scored 25 points before fouling out for the Suns. Reigning
league MVP Steve Nash contributed 17 points and 13 assists for Phoenix, which
is one victory away from its second straight trip to the conference finals.

Elton Brand poured in 33 points and had 15 boards for the Clippers. Sam
Cassell added 32 points, 27 of which came after halftime. However, the
Clippers let a three-point lead slip away in the final seconds of the first OT
and were hurt by missed shots, turnovers and mental errors.

Cassell’s three-pointer from the right corner, with the help of a crushing
screen from Brand, tied the game at 101 with 39.8 seconds left in the fourth

Marion was fouled on a long inbounds pass, but missed two free throws.
However, each team then made crucial mental mistakes. Cassell was called for
an eight-second violation for not getting the ball past halfcourt. Nash and
Cassell each missed three-pointers. Thomas tracked down Cassell’s miss in the
corner with more than three seconds left, but instead of calling timeout,
launched the ball down the court as time expired.

Nash had two critical turnovers in the final minute of the first OT, but the
Clippers couldn’t capitalize. Nash’s errant bounce pass to Marion in the lane
was picked off by Cassell, who hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds left for a
111-108 LA lead.

Bell nailed a three-pointer from the left corner over Daniel Ewing with 1.1
seconds remaining to tie the game.

“The first play coach drew up at the end of the first overtime, they kind of
took away our passing lanes, so Mike drew up another one and I just caught it
and shot it,” Bell said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about it,
but it felt good as soon as it left my hand. I’m not one of those guys who ask
for the ball, but when he drew it up for me, I was excited.”

The Clippers threw away the ensuing inbounds pass, but Marion missed a shot
near halfcourt at the buzzer.

“It’s not his fault that Raja made the shot, but we have to know better in
that situation,” Cassell said. “We had a foul to give. We’ve got to put Raja
Bell in the fifth row, (with the) popcorn man.”

Marion’s follow dunk off a Boris Diaw miss gave the Suns a 115-113 lead, but
Marion had to be helped off the court after jamming his left ankle while
stepping on a Clipper player’s foot. Marion came back a short time later, and
the Suns never lost the lead.

A three-point play by Brand had the Clippers within 119-118 with 1:22 left,
but Marion, also playing with four stitches over his left eye, countered with
a layup.

Cuttino Mobley missed a shot and Leandro Barbosa added two free throws for a
123-118 Phoenix lead with 52.3 seconds remaining.

LA’s Shaun Livingston turned the ball over after stepping over the end line,
Cassell missed a three-pointer, and two free throws from Nash with 19.5
seconds left accounted for the final margin.

“We’re a tough group. We’re resilient,” Nash said. “I think we always find an
interesting way to put ourselves to be tough and resilient and there are two
sides to that. We do hang around. We’ve had a lot of adversity this year, and
I think it helped us become a team that can overcome, and with all the
injuries and things we have faced, we have found different ways to get over
the hump.”

Phoenix blew a 19-point lead, but still managed to pull out the victory with
the heroics of Bell and Marion.

The Clippers led 31-26 after the opening quarter, but Phoenix got hot in the
second. A 26-11 run by the Suns moved them to a 54-46 lead. The Suns were
ahead 58-52 at the break and extended the margin to 78-59 following a Marion
layup midway through the third.

However, the Clippers didn’t break and got within 84-78 going into the fourth.
Bell’s three-pointer extended Phoenix to a 101-96 lead with over three minutes
left in the period.

Game Notes

Thomas tied his playoff career-best for points, while Marion set one for
rebounds…Brand’s rebounds are his best in the playoffs…The Clippers
outrebounded the Suns, 57-50…Brand also had five blocked shots…Vladimir
Radmanovic had 13 points for the Clippers, while Chris Kaman had 11 points
and 10 boards…Mobley had 10 points…Barbosa scored 15…Marion finished
16-of-33 from the field…Phoenix had a solid run in the 2005 playoffs, as it
advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1993, but
was eliminated in five games by the San Antonio Spurs, who defeated the
Detroit Pistons in seven games in the championship round…Lakers fan Jack
Nicholson was on hand to root on the Clippers…The Suns, when leading 3-2
have won six of the nine series they have played…This was the Suns’ first
multiple-OT win in the playoffs since the 1993 NBA Finals against Chicago when
they beat the Bulls, 129-121 in triple-OT in Game 3.