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Like It or Not, Game 7 Gives Teams Pause

Times Staff Writers

Hot off their Game 6 victory, the Clippers don’t necessarily want three full days to cool before Game 7 on Monday. The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, desperately could use the R&R.;

Neither team has a choice. The NBA has a playoff schedule that forces teams to hurry up and wait.

The NBA scheduled semifinal Game 7s from the same conference on the same day to “make sure that nobody was getting a competitive advantage,” in the next round, league spokesman Tim Frank said.

In the other Western Conference semifinal, Dallas and San Antonio will also wait until Monday for their Game 7, which became necessary after the Spurs’ victory Friday night.

In the East, Cleveland and Detroit play their Game 7 on Sunday. Miami and New Jersey also would have played that day if a Game 7 had been necessary in that series.

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At any rate, the Clippers and Suns will wait an extra two days instead of playing tonight, which would have been their Game 7 date if the usual every-other-day scheduling, which spreads the games for television, had occurred in their series.

“We’re fine with whenever we play the game,” Clippers forward Elton Brand said. “We’ve got some guys who could use the extra rest, but they could also play earlier if we had to.

“We don’t make the schedule. You can’t do anything about that.”

The Suns, who played a league-high 13 playoff games in 25 days, embraced the extra time.

“I think this is the best shot we have to try to get to the conference finals,” Suns Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Three days’ rest, and we’re at home. I don’t think we can ask for anything more.”

Cable television executives couldn’t either. They have a better chance attracting viewers on Monday night than in prime time on Sunday, when they’d be going up against “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC and “The Sopranos” on HBO.

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Brand said he would be willing to make changes to accommodate swingman Quinton Ross, who scored well inside in Game 6.

Ross, who had a career-high 18 points, displayed nifty low-post moves while working against Suns point guard Steve Nash.

Could Brand’s standing as the team’s No. 1 low-post option be in jeopardy?

“Q Ross seemed real comfortable down there,” Brand said. “We get on him about being slight of build, but he was aggressive, and that’s what we needed.

“People don’t know it, but Q Ross hits medium-range jumpers all day in practice. He did the job for us.”

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Dijon Thompson was completing his final semester at UCLA a year ago, preparing for life in the NBA.

He now wears a neatly pressed suit at the end of the Phoenix Suns’ bench, his rookie season behind him after season-ending surgery in March.

He has learned plenty since leaving the Bruins, compiling enough experience on and off the court to offer words of wisdom to former UCLA teammates Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar:

Stay in school.

Afflalo and Farmar, both sophomore guards, have declared for the June 28 draft but have not hired agents and could return to UCLA if they withdraw from consideration by June 18.

“I understand where they’re coming from,” said Thompson, 23, who declared for the 2004 draft but withdrew his name after participating in the league’s pre-draft camp. “They’re trying to stick their feet in while they’re hot after getting to the championship. But the NBA isn’t going anywhere. Cherish the moment and get that education. Go back and enjoy it while you can.”

Afflalo led UCLA with 15.8 points per game and was the top defensive player on a team that lost to Florida in the championship game. Farmar averaged 13.5 points while running the offense.

Thompson, who averaged 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds for UCLA as a senior, is not on the Suns’ playoff roster after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee.

He averaged 2.8 points in 10 games with the Suns and 13.8 points in four games with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, the Suns’ Development League affiliate.

“It’s pretty much been a learning year,” he said. “It’s been fun learning from the MVP [Nash]. I’ve been able to see unbelievable things watching him. I really have no complaints other than the injury.”

Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.


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