Tuesday , May , 23 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Western finals now set; Nash, Suns rout Clippers to advance

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Steve Nash had another MVP performance with 29
points and 11 assists, leading Phoenix into the Western Conference finals for
a second straight year with a 127-107 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in
Game 7 of their semifinal series.

Shawn Marion had 30 points and nine rebounds for the Suns, who were playing in
their second straight Game 7 after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to top the
Lakers.

The Suns, who went 15-of-27 from three-point range, will play at Dallas in
Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday. The Mavericks eliminated
the defending NBA champion Spurs, 119-111, in overtime in Game 7 of the other
semifinal series, in San Antonio, on Monday.

Nash, the two-time reigning league MVP, shot 11-of-16 from the field,
including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, helping Phoenix to a 60 percent
performance from the floor. Now, he’ll face his former team, as Nash played
six seasons in Dallas before coming to Phoenix.

Elton Brand tallied 36 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Clippers,
who as a franchise have never made it to the conference finals. They were
playing a Game 7 for the first time since moving to Los Angeles.

Leandro Barbosa added 18 points and Tim Thomas scored 16 for the Suns, who
also got 14 points and eight boards from Boris Diaw, and 10 points from Raja
Bell.

Phoenix outscored the Clippers, 45-0, on three-pointers.

Leading 65-57 at halftime, the Suns pulled away late in the third. Sam
Cassell’s jumper brought the Clippers within 82-75 midway through the period,
but Phoenix capped the stanza with a 12-4 spurt.

A Nash jumper bolstered Phoenix to a 104-83 cushion with 8:44 left and the
lead didn’t dip under 15 the rest of the way.

Corey Maggette contributed 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Los
Angeles, but Cassell was limited to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

The Clippers scored the game’s first four points, but the Suns responded with
an 18-6 spurt and didn’t trail the remainder of the contest. However, the
Clippers tied the game at 28-28 in the final minute of the first and trailed
by only four, 32-28, after 12 minutes.

Bell drilled a jumper and a three-pointer to start the second quarter, and
Diaw’s layup capped a big run to boost Phoenix to a 39-28 advantage.

LA whittled its deficit to three later in the second, but still trailed by
eight points at the half.

Game Notes

The Suns lost to San Antonio in last year’s conference finals…This is the
Suns’ eighth time in the conference finals and first time back-to-back…The
Clippers went 7-5 in the playoffs this year. In the previous 27 seasons, since
moving to California, they were 4-9 in the postseason….The 15 three-pointers
ties a Phoenix playoff record…Rebounds were even at 32…The Clippers shot
52.6 percent…Shaun Livingston had 14 points while Cuttino Mobley and Chris
Kaman each had 10 for the Clippers.

LAC PHO