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CLIPPERS-SUNS REPORT

Dunleavy Endures Knocks, Brand Leaps to His Defense

May 18, 2006|Jason Reid and Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writers

It seems Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy can't do anything right.

Reporters covering the Clippers-Suns Western Conference semifinals series continued to criticize Dunleavy's substitutions and strategy after the Clippers lost, 125-118, in double overtime Tuesday in Game 5 at US Airways Center.

Of course, Dunleavy in only three years has helped to transform the Clippers from a laughingstock to a team two victories away from a conference finals appearance.

"I've heard some of the criticism about Coach, but those people are novices to Clippers basketball," power forward and co-captain Elton Brand said. "They haven't watched us all season.

"No disrespect, we appreciate new fans and new media, but these are people who got on the bandwagon a little bit late. They missed those same scenarios that worked many times."

Under Dunleavy this season, the Clippers had their highest victory total in California and won a postseason series for the first time in 30 years.

He has had a major role in personnel decisions while working closely with General Manager Elgin Baylor, scheduled to receive the NBA's executive of the year award tonight before Game 6.

The shots bother Dunleavy, he said, because many of his critics are uninformed about the team and its personnel.

"I know where this team was when I came here, everyone said it was a suicide job, and I know where this team is now," he said.

*

The Suns' win was dramatic, but the main topics a day later were Steve Nash's tired legs and Shawn Marion's tender ankle.

Marion did not participate in the Suns' light workout Wednesday morning after landing awkwardly Tuesday night on Cuttino Mobley's foot. He is, however, expected to play tonight in Game 6, the injury looking a little worse at the time than it really is.

Nash, however, continued to struggle with his shot and offered a rare acknowledgment that fatigue was affecting him.

"Even mid-range shots are a long way for me now the way I feel physically," he said.

*

Suns guard Raja Bell continues to be more than a defensive presence, following up his 33-point effort in Game 4 with a game-turning three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in the first overtime of Game 5.

Bell is averaging 22.2 points in the series and shooting 56.4% from three-point range. But he didn't exactly celebrate after Game 5.

"As high as I was last night, when I got home, I watched 'CSI: Miami' with my wife and I packed a bag and tried to keep an even keel about me," Bell said.

Of tonight's game, Bell said, "It's a close-out game for us. We played well the last time we had a close out."

*

Fans attending Game 6 tonight should use tickets marked "B3," a Clippers spokesman said.

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