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Brand, Clippers beat suddenly-sinking Suns

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers never looked more like a
bona fide playoff team than they did Wednesday night in a 119-105
victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Elton Brand had 34 points and 15 rebounds, and the Clippers
climbed 14 games above .500 for the first time since the 1974-75
season, when the franchise was in Buffalo.

Corey Maggette added 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers,
who are five games behind the first-place Suns with eight to play.
Seven Los Angeles players scored in double figures.

The Clippers, who kept their faint Pacific Division title hopes
alive, defeated division leaders Denver and Phoenix on consecutive
nights to close in on their first playoff berth since 1996-97.

"Everything for us right now, for the organization, is kind of
uncharted waters," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "But it's not
satisfaction for me. I have high expectations for our team."

Boris Diaw scored 24 for the Suns, who could have all but locked
up the division title with a win.

The Suns' Leandro Barbosa was in a hospital emergency room on
IVs for four hours Monday night and underwent a spinal tap to test
for meningitis. It was diagnosed as the flu and he played 31
minutes Wednesday night, scoring 19 points.

Phoenix, back from a five-game road trip on Sunday, has lost
four of six and six of 10.

"We started off real nice with ball movement and energy," Suns
coach Mike D'Antoni said, "and then we just lost our
concentration. It was just like somebody turned the lights off.
When you do that, it's hard to turn them back on."

For the first time, the Suns played knowing for sure they won't
have Amare Stoudemire this season. The All-Star forward, who missed
the first 66 games following an operation on his left knee,
underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday morning.

The latest surgery removed debris that had accumulated behind
his kneecap during his rehabilitation. Stoudemire played in only
three games.

They certainly could have used him in this one.

Los Angeles shot 55 percent and outrebounded the Suns 52-37.

"Our defense was not good -- a lack of really focus and
energy," D'Antoni said. "We do have some areas that we're going
to be weak on, but you can't be slow AND little."

The Clippers scored the last 10 points of the first half to go
up 59-55 at the break, then used a 20-6 outburst to go up 81-67
when Maggette made one of two free throws with 2:29 to go in the
third quarter.

Maggette made a 3-pointer and two free throws in the final 45
seconds of the third to put Los Angeles ahead 88-71. Maggette's
3-pointer gave the Clippers a 95-75 lead with 10:02 to play. The
Suns never got closer than 109-97 on Diaw's 18-footer with 3:19 to
go. Maggette's 3-pointer after Brand's offensive rebound put Los
Angeles up 112-97 with 2:52 left.

The last time the Clippers came to Phoenix, on March 15, they
were blown out 128-95.

"I think the biggest thing was slowing down Steve Nash,"
Maggette said. "The teams that have success against Phoenix slow
down Steve Nash."

The Suns' MVP playmaker had nine points, five assists and five
turnovers.

Phoenix's Shawn Marion and Raja Bell were a combined 10-for-35
shooting, 2-for-12 on 3s.

"We couldn't buy a bucket, man," Marion said. "I was a little
fatigued out there. I ain't going to lie."

Brand, who had 23 points at the break, scored 17 of Los Angeles'
final 21 points in the second quarter. Phoenix, meanwhile, didn't
get a field goal in the final 4½ minutes of the half.

Game notes
Diaw was 8-for-8 and scored 16 in the first half for the
Suns. ... The Clippers gave up 77 points, most in a half by any
team in the NBA this season, then came from 22 down to beat Denver
on Tuesday night. ... It was Stoudemire bobblehead night. ... The
Suns and Clippers split their season series 2-2.