for this game

Brand, Thomas lead Clippers past Suns

Apr 18, 2007 - 6:44 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Clippers were playing for something far more important than the Phoenix Suns.

Elton Brand collected 21 points and nine rebounds and Tim Thomas added 18 and eight as the Clippers posted a critical 103-99 victory over the Suns.

Despite the win, Los Angeles (40-41) remained one game behind Golden State (41-40) for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference postseason race heading into Wednesday's regular-season finale. The Warriors beat Dallas on Tuesday.

"It was a must-win game for us and we pulled it out," Thomas said. "This is a tough environment against a great team. Somehow, some way, we pulled it out. It was a total team effort."

"It is what it is. We came out with it and got the win," Brand said. "It's not just one game, it's a few games throughout the season. There was a pivot point where we could have got a win and held onto the lead but we didn't. That's the most disheartening thing."

The Clippers need to beat the New Orleans Hornets and hope the Warriors stumble at Portland to secure its second straight playoff berth for the first time since 1992 and 1993.

"We still have an outside chance and we have to depend on others," Brand said. "All in all it is disappointing that it has to come down to this."

"We got one more game to see what's going on," Thomas said. "But right now we have to just take care of our own business and hope that Portland will help us out a little bit. We'll see, we are one game away."

The Clippers, who improved to 15-26 away from home this season, bounced back well from their lackluster 105-100 loss to Sacramento at the Staples Center on Sunday.

"The only game that we have probably had in the last 17 that mentally we didn't have it or that there was something missing was Sunday against Sacramento," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Every other game has been like this game, come down to a last possession and the guys played their hearts out and those results are really good for us. I was so shocked about Sunday. I don't know where that came from. I didn't think our guys had it in them."

Quinton Ross made two free throws and Jason Hart scored on a floater in the lane as Los Angeles grabbed a 97-92 lead at the 2:11 mark in the fourth quarter.

Sixth Man of the Year candidate Leandro Barbosa netted five straight points for the Suns to close within 99-97 with 32 seconds left. Barbosa finished with 22 points.

But Hart sank all four of his free throws in the waning seconds to seal the victory.

Raja Bell and Boris Diaw each scored 17 points and All-Star Amare Stoudemire chipped in 16 for Phoenix (61-21), which fell one game shy of tying a franchise record for wins.

"Sixty-one is a lot of wins and we got Amare all the way back from his knee injury that was huge," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I think the team is very good; we have a chance with three or four other teams to win a championship."

A two-time All-Star, Stoudemire was glad to see action in all 82 games this season following microfracture surgery.

"For me to play 82 games this season is a great accomplishment," Stoudemire said. "Coming back from two knee surgeries; it's the fact of playing all 82. A lot of players in the league haven't done it this year. I feel grateful, I feel blessed. I just want to continue the great health."

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