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Suns Caught Short : NBA: Barkley, Johnson and Ceballos don't play as Manning leads Clippers back to .500.


Those with unused tickets among the announced sellout of 15,989 Monday night at the Sports Arena weren't the only no-shows. Charles Barkley went on the injured list earlier in the day with a shoulder injury, but he had company back in Phoenix with Kevin Johnson and Cedric Ceballos also banged up. Clipper Stanley Roberts was kept away by a one-game suspension for fighting.

Who was there?

The Clippers, for enough of the second half to build a 12-point lead in the third quarter and then hold off a fourth-quarter charge by Phoenix to win, 111-104, and become the first team this season to beat the Suns three times.

The Clippers also joined Cleveland as the only teams to take the season series from Phoenix and won their seventh in a row at the Sports Arena, a record for consecutive home victories in the Los Angeles era. The San Diego Clippers of 1978-79 set the franchise record of 11.

"It's good for the organization, it's good for team morale," John Williams, who scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, said of the Clippers' success against the Suns. "We've beat a lot of good teams this year--New York and Phoenix included. Those are the two teams with the best records. That says a lot."

Danny Manning had a game-high 31 points and added 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who got back to .500 at 38-38. Richard Dumas had 28 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, six on offense, to lead the Suns, who had their 11-game winning streak snapped.

Who wasn't there?

--Barkley. His goal to play an entire season (minus the one-game suspension for his Madison Square Garden run-in with referee Jimmy Clark) vanished with strained left shoulder. It also gives Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon a chance to build more momentum in the battle for most valuable player.

Sun physician Richard Emerson said Barkley is expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs. The league's No. 4 scorer and No. 6 rebounder at the start of Monday's play is eligible to return for the final three games of the regular season.

Tom Chambers, out the previous eight games with torn muscles in his left quadriceps, was activated to take his place. But Chambers was not ready enough to play, giving the Suns a nine-man roster for the game.

--Johnson. He missed his 14th game of the season because of problems with the left hamstring.

--Ceballos. A stress reaction of the left foot kept him out.

--Roberts. His suspension put Elmore Spencer in the starting lineup for the fourth time.

"It happens, it happens," Coach Larry Brown said of playing without Roberts. "It's unfortunate. We'll miss him. We're fighting for a playoff spot, and it's tough not to have your starting center available."

The rest of the Suns were there. Late, but there.

Suddenly in the middle of a miserable run of bad luck a day after clinching the best record in the Western Conference, the Suns found a bump in the road. To be more specific, the front of their bus heading from the hotel to the Sports Arena found the back of a car at the intersection of Slauson and Crenshaw, causing an accident but no injuries. Players and coaches had to wait around 30 minutes so a police report could be taken.

Neither team left any offense at home, both scoring 62 points the first half with the Clippers shooting 60% and the Suns 53.1%. Manning, averaging 25.5 points the previous 10 games, already had 19. Dumas and Dan Majerle both had 16 for Phoenix.

The Clippers pulled away first, using a 17-3 run to turn a 67-65 deficit into an 82-70 lead with 3:52 left in the third quarter. That was part of a stretch in which the Suns went 7:24 without a field goal, getting only four free throws by Dumas and one from Danny Ainge.

Looking to win the season series against Phoenix for the second consecutive season, the Clippers went into the fourth quarter with a 93-82 cushion.

* ROBERTS: Suspended for one game, the Clippers' center loses about $33,000 in penalties for fighting. C4

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