PHOENIX — Even Elton Brand needs a break.
That was Coach Mike Dunleavy's thinking when he removed Brand in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' 130-123 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
That might have been a mistake, Dunleavy acknowledged, because the Clippers struggled with Brand on the bench and finished poorly.
"He obviously didn't look tired to me on offense, but defensively he did," Dunleavy said. "There were some situations where I didn't think he was moving quickly enough on the coverages, so that's why I kind of relented [and pulled him].
"I was hoping to pad us with a little bit of a lead before I took him out. Then, I just felt like I needed to do it."
With 7 minutes 15 seconds left and the Clippers trailing, 103-101, center Chris Kaman replaced Brand.
By the time the power forward returned with 5:34 left, the Suns led, 112-103.
"We just didn't convert the way we needed to," Dunleavy said. "It was defensively more than offensively. We didn't get stops."
Brand, who finished with a game-high 40 points, supported Dunleavy's move.
"You get tired out there," he said. "You do need a blow at some time."
Kaman missed four of seven shots and scored only eight points in 30 minutes.
"I was frustrated. I thought I took all good shots," he said. "I didn't think I really had a bad shot, but I didn't make some of them.
"I'm not going to make them every night, but I can score. I can score the basketball and I can play."
Brand encouraged Kaman.
"You just let him know to keep his head up keep working hard," Brand said. "He knows what he has to do. It's just a mental thing.
"Once he knows he can dominate, he will. I'm looking forward to him stepping up. I know they'll be keying on me."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times