LOS ANGELES (AP) – Elton Brand scored 15 of his 27 points in the third quarter and had 13 rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 101-91 victory over Phoenix on Saturday night, snapping a first-place tie between the Pacific Division rivals and halting the Suns’ nine-game winning streak.

Brand also had a season-high six assists and was 11-for-12 from the line. Cuttino Mobley added 25 points and Sam Cassell scored six of his 24 points in the final minute to choke off a late Suns rally. Chris Kaman added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Shawn Marion scored 20 points for Phoenix and Kurt Thomas had 13 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Nash added 16 points and 11 assists.

The Suns, who entered the game as the NBA’s highest-scoring team, went 1-for-13 from the field in the first 8:20 of the fourth quarter while the Clippers went on an 8-0 run that increased their seven-point lead to 91-78 with 3:58 to play. Cassell ignited the rally with a pair of 18-foot jumpers.

The Suns, who lost reserve guard Leandro Barbosa to a knee injury with 3:55 left, got as close as 93-88 with a 10-2 spurt capped by Nash’s two free throws with 1:04 to play. But Cassell iced it with a short jumper and four free throws.

After squandering a nine-point lead in the first half, the Clippers pulled ahead 75-65 with a 20-6 run capped by Cassell’s 14-footer with 4:10 left in the third quarter. Boris Diaw, starting in Amare Stoudemire’s spot, picked up his fifth foul with 6:56 left in the quarter and Brand converted both free throws before Mobley hit a 14-footer, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws – all in a 48-second span.

The Suns led 57-53 at halftime after trailing by nine points in the final minute of the first quarter. Raja Bell, who went to the bench less than 21/2 minutes into the game after picking up his first two fouls 8 seconds apart, capped a 13-2 run with a layup that gave Phoenix a 54-47 lead with 2:44 left in the half.

Los Angeles rookie Daniel Ewing made a rookie mistake at the end of the opening quarter, fouling former Clipper Eddie House behind the 3-point line as he attempted a desperation shot to beat the buzzer. House sank all three free throws to shave the Clippers’ lead to 37-34.

It was the only time a Suns player went to the line during the first 17:47 of the game. In Friday night’s 85-81 win over the New York Knicks, it took Phoenix more than three quarters to attempt a foul shot.

Notes: The Suns had winning streaks of nine and 11 games last season en route to a league-best 62-20 record, earning Mike D’Antoni coach of the year honors. He was an assistant in Portland under current Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy in 2000-01, two seasons after Dunleavy was named coach of the year with the Trail Blazers. … Phoenix F James Jones left the game with 3:40 remaining in the first half after spraining his right ankle. … The Suns have played only six road games, the fewest in the league. This game began a stretch in which they will play nine of 12 away from home. Their 31-10 road record last season was a franchise record. … The Clippers’ next two games are against Detroit and San Antonio, the teams that faced each other in last season’s NBA Finals. … The Suns, who swept the four-game series last season, didn’t take their first lead until Nash sank two free throws to put them ahead 49-47, with 3:40 left in the second quarter.

AP-ES-12-11-05 0101EST


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