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Los Angeles 106, Phoenix 91

12/14/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers learned a valuable
lesson in their previous game, when they fell behind by 20 in the
first nine minutes before winning on a buzzer-beater. They now
realize it's better to be the team being chased.

Quentin Richardson scored 25 points and Corey Maggette had 23
for the Clippers, who build a 23-point lead in the third quarter
and fought off a late rally by the Phoenix Suns for a 106-91
victory Saturday night. Elton Brand had 21 points and 14 rebounds
in his fifth game back from a stress fracture in his right foot.

"We came out and got a good jump on them, played with a lot of
intensity and didn't have a lackluster start," Richardson said.
"Elton dominated the boards, and that's what we were missing while
he was out. It seemed like every time you turned around, he came up
with a big rebound."

Stephon Marbury had 30 points, nine assists and seven rebounds
for the Suns, who were outrebounded 53-36 and shot 2-for-14 from
3-point range. They're 2-0 since Mike D'Antoni was promoted to head
coach after Frank Johnson was fired Wednesday.

"We got killed on the glass again tonight. But since we're
playing smaller, we know we're going to get beat on the glass,"
Scott Williams said. "So we need to be a little quicker to loose
balls and try to take more advantage of fast-break points."

The Suns' fifth straight loss kept them in the Western
Conference cellar, two games behind the Clippers. By no small
coincidence, Amare Stoudemire missed his fifth game because of a
sprained left ankle. Last season's rookie of the year isn't
expected back until early next month.

It has been a difficult week for the Suns without Stoudemire. On
Monday night, they blew a 22-point lead to Orlando in a loss that
ended the Magic's 19-game losing streak. The following night, they
scored only 72 points against Miami -- the fifth-lowest total in
franchise history. Thursday, in their first game after changing
coaches, they surrendered a season-worst 111 points to the
Charlotte Hornets and had a season-low 25 rebounds.

"Having Amare is a big difference -- rebounding offense,
blocking shots, just his presence on the court," Marbury said.
"But this is the NBA, and if somebody goes down, it's an
opportunity for somebody else. And right now, that opportunity is
not being filled."

The Clippers committed six of their 20 turnovers during a 13-2
Phoenix run that reduced the Suns' 20-point deficit to 95-86.
Williams' 15-foot baseline jumper capped the rally with 5:17 to
play.

But that was as close as it got. Maggette stopped the bleeding
with a 3-pointer 14 seconds later -- only the second of four field
goals by the Clippers in the quarter.

"In the fourth quarter we made some turnovers and missed shots,
they got some rebounds and made some plays. Then we had to step up
to the challenge," Maggette said. "Last year we lost a lot of
games like this, but we're getting better because we understand
we've got to continue to play our game while they're trying to
catch us."

Marko Jaric hit a pair of 20-footers a minute apart during a
16-6 run and Brand capped the rally with a short turnaround jumper
to give Los Angeles its biggest lead, 86-83, with three minutes
left in the third.

"Our defense has seemed to be letting us down in the second and
third quarters, and it's been kind of a theme for us," Williams
said. "They had 90 points through three quarters, and that's just
too many."

Coming off a one-point victory over Dallas in which they won on
Glen Rice's buzzer-beating jumper, the Clippers enjoyed their
highest-scoring half of the season. They used 13 points each from
Maggette and Brand and 51.1-percent shooting to build a 61-47 lead.

Rookie center Chris Kaman, who was benched 10 minutes into the
Dallas game after the Clippers fell behind by 20 points, made his
first four shots against Phoenix after replacing Chris Wilcox with
5:21 left in the first quarter. Kaman's dunk over Shawn Marion
capped a 12-0 run that turned a one-point deficit into a 38-27 lead
with 8:26 left in the half.

Game notes
D'Antoni's only other stint as an NBA head coach was during
the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, when he was 14-36 with
Denver. He got his first win with the Nuggets on his fifth try. ...
The Clippers are 7-5 against Phoenix since dropping their previous
12 meetings against them. The only players left on the Clippers'
roster from that losing streak are Richardson, Maggette and Keyon
Dooling -- all of whom were only on board for loss No. 12. ...
Marion, averaging 24.8 points and 12.2 rebounds in the five games
Stoudemire has missed, was averaging 15 points and 7.9 rebounds
before Stoudemire's injury.