His other five attempts missed and so did almost everything else the Suns tried against a Clippers team that went from deflated to elated, from dying to revived, from the despair of Game 5 to the promise of Game 7.

Instead, the Clippers will go on the road, back to Phoenix, for Game 7 on Monday, this lifelong losing franchise now just 48 solid minutes from the Western Conference finals.

The Suns dramatically beat the Clippers in Game5, but they didn't completely beat them. Instead of long faces, the Clippers showed up Thursday with short memories. Instead of feeling defeated, they decided to do the defeating.

Some speculation had the Clippers dragging their heads onto the court for Game 6. But by the end of the night, the only thing dragging were the Suns' buns, Phoenix unable to summon a final charge in the fourth quarter.

"It was win or go home for us, so I knew we'd have energy," the Clippers' Quinton Ross said. "To be in these situations is special. Monday will be special, too. It's the playoffs. You gotta step up your game in the playoffs."

Naturally, Elton Brand continued stepping up, up and away, scoring another 30 points and grabbing another 12 rebounds and blocking another five shots. Corey Maggette rejoined the cause with 25 points in 27 minutes, making 16 of 17 shots - field goals and free throws combined.

But the Clippers' third-leading scorer in Game 6? Think unlikely? Very unlikely? Let's just say he admitted that the last time he played in such a big game he was in high school, a state championship contest in Texas in 1999.

The short-breath desperation of a close-out game can cause players to behave in atypical ways. In this case, it was Ross putting the Q in quirky. How else would you explain a defensive stopper suddenly becoming unstoppable offensively?

Paid to crawl into opponents' jerseys, Ross instead tormented the Suns with his mid-range jumper, scoring 16 points in the first half alone. He retreated to the locker room already with a career high. That's counting the playoffs, the regular season, the preseason, probably even practice.

Oh, sure. But the last time Ross scored as many as 16 points in a game he was playing for - honest, this is not a joke - Telindus BC Oostende. That's a club in Belgium, a country so unfamiliar with basketball most of the players there wear wooden high-tops.

But Ross' 16 led the Clippers in a first half during which their starting front court shot 19 of 24 from the floor, establishing a 12-point lead and, more important, game control. The Suns closed to 88-81 after three quarters, but the Clippers' effort and the insurance of a Game7 at home conspired to keep Phoenix somewhat flat.

The Clippers were so in charge of this game that Coach Mike Dunleavy probably won't be second-guessed for at least an hour or two today. At least until he orders breakfast and the waitress questions his choice of egg preparation.

Ross continued to contribute on defense, where he has helped make Steve Nash not only look like but also shoot like rocker Tom Petty. The two-time reigning league MVP scored 17 points with 11 assists in Game6, but he had no MVP-type influence.

Nash continues to fade like a newspaper on a dashboard, his legs apparently fatiguing every time he does anything strenuous, like reading that newspaper. As this series has progressed, he openly has talked about his body growing more faint.

Nash's first two jumpers Thursday died on the front of the rim. He took a handful of odd, off-balance shots, each of which also came up short. Since scoring 31 points in Game1, Nash has been shooting as if hoisting his MVP trophy instead of a ball at the basket.

If there's a player who will benefit from the extra rest before Game7, it's Nash, who probably wouldn't mind if Game7 was pushed back even more, to August preferably. If the Suns advance in these playoffs, Nash, 32, will be 118 by the end of the Western Conference finals.

Maybe that won't matter, though. Maybe the Clippers really can pull this off. They've at least given themselves a chance, something this franchise used to go decades without.

"It's going to be a great basketball game," point guard Sam Cassell promised of Game7. "So if you don't have cable television, you better get it right away."

ABC isn't ready to put the Clippers on network TV. No matter. This team right now is all about taking the big step, not making the small screen.

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