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Cassell, Clippers scorch Suns

Jan 16, 2008 - 7:20 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Sam Cassell found his shooting touch and the Los Angeles Clippers found a win.

Struggling in his previous four games, Cassell bounced back to score 32 points to lead the Clippers to a rare home victory, 97-90, over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Corey Maggette finished with 21 points and Tim Thomas added 11 for Los Angeles, which had lost 17 of its previous 22 home games to the Suns.

"Sam shot lights out, which was really big, that was a big key to this game," Maggette said. "He just caught fire and propelled our team to the next level."

The Clippers, who had lost 10 of their last 11 games, also snapped a four-game losing streak - all of which came at Staples Center.

"The last two games were as good of basketball as we've played all year long," said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, whose squad lost to the Dallas Mavericks Saturday on a last-second shot. "We just hope we can continue to play at this level."

Cassell, who missed nearly all of December with a strained left calf, made just 7-of-31 shots from the floor in his previous four games. In his seventh appearance since returning from the injury, the point guard made 15-of-21 shots against the Suns while pouring in 14 first-quarter points.

"I just made shots," Cassell said. "I think the guys got me the ball and depended on me to make shots. I think that was the key."

The scoring outburst was a good sign for the last-place Clippers.

"If he can do that every night, whew, we'll use it," Maggette said.

Cassell and Maggette carried the Clippers down the stretch, combining for 10 points in the final quarter to fend off a late Phoenix charge.

Cassell's jumper with 4:12 left in the third quarter gave Los Angels a 69-59 lead, which they would not relinquish.

"He was hard to shut off," Suns forward Shawn Marion said. "Sometimes when you get in a zone it seems like everything you throw up will go in and that is hard to stop."

Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 29 points and Steve Nash added 14 and 13 assists.

Phoenix got off to a hot start, knocking down its first five shots from the floor to forge a 10-point lead in the first quarter.

"One thing you can say about Phoenix is that it doesn't matter if you are up 20 points or down 20 on them because it could turn around because of the pace that they play," Dunleavy said.

The Clippers, however, started hitting their shots from the floor as well, making 16 of their first 25 attempts and ending the first half shooting 55 percent to take a 49-48 lead.

Despite the hot start, Phoenix struggled with its stroke the rest of the way, shooting just 41 percent from the field en route to its second loss in its last three games.

"(The Clippers) did play hard and they did defend us, so you've got to give them credit," Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "But at the same time, normally it doesn't matter, normally we score anyways."

Los Angeles center Chris Kaman, who played despite a sprained ankle, also struggled from the field, making just 3-of-14 shots, but pulled down 18 rebounds as the Clippers avoided a four-game season sweep by the Suns.

"Finally the hard work kind of paid off and we just need to capitalize off that win and get ready for the next one," Maggette said.

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