Jan 25, 2013, 3:50 AM EST
PHOENIX — The Suns said the team needed a “jolt” when it parted ways with Alvin Gentry last week, and replaced him with Lindsey Hunter as the interim head coach for (at least) the rest of this season. Hunter said from day one his first priority would be defense, and he’s been a man of his word, at least through his first two games on the bench.
Phoenix is now 2-0 under its new coach, after a nationally televised 93-88 victory over the Clippers on Thursday.
L.A. dropped its third straight game, and did so for the second straight game without Chris Paul, who was sidelined with a bruised kneecap. Even with the losing streak, the Clippers have lost just 12 times all season against 32 wins, so they’re not exactly going to be in any hurry to rush him back before he’s 100 percent.
In this one, Paul was sorely missed. While the Suns busted it on defense all night long, the Clippers struggled for the most part to get good looks or easy shots. It didn’t help that Blake Griffin aggravated a previous ankle injury by rolling it in the first quarter.
“I really injured it three days ago against Golden State,” Griffin said afterward. “It got better, but I just kind of re-tweaked it. It’s not terrible. To me, ankles are one of those things where you’ve just got to tolerate the pain, so I’ve just got to do a better job.”
Griffin finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and two blocked shots in 36 minutes. That’s not going to be enough for his team on a night where its All-Star point guard is missing, and he knows it.
“Our offense was stagnant,” Griffin said. “Our defense wasn’t great. We just did a poor job overall, and it starts with me. I’ve just got to do a better job of setting the tone early and being a leader out there. Especially when Chris is not there.”
There were several stretches where the Clippers needed offense, but it was hard to come by against a Suns team that has embraced its new coach’s defensive principles for now. L.A. ranks fourth in the league in offensive efficiency and field goal percentage, but was held under 90 points for just the third time all year, and finished the night shooting 39.8 percent from the field — a mark that wouldn’t be good enough for anything but the league’s worst if averaged over the course of the season.
Jamal Crawford led L.A. with 21 points in 37 minutes off the bench, but should have gotten more opportunities, especially in the final period. But when asked about it afterward, Crawford said he simply was trying to make the plays that made the most sense.
“We have some very capable guys,” Crawford said. “Guys that make plays. I try to step up when my number’s called, but they did a lot of double-teaming. So I had to make the right play and give the ball up and trust in my teammates to make plays, and we did that for a long time.”
The most capable on this night was wearing the home whites. Goran Dragic finished with 24 points, five rebounds, and eight assists for the Suns, while energizing his team throughout.
Without Chris Paul, this loss won’t matter in the grand scheme of things for the Clippers; this is a team that has aspirations of playing deep into the postseason, so there won’t be much in the way of dwelling on a shorthanded loss to a team playing with a renewed spirit under a new head coach.
For the Suns, however, consecutive wins have been very hard to come by this season, so the team will take them no matter how they are earned, and no matter which of their opponent’s stars is forced to sit due to injury.
There’s been a lot of off-the-court turmoil in Phoenix over the past week. But management has been validated to a certain extent by the team’s effort in its first two games under Hunter, and the results have only served to reinforce the thinking — at least internally — that the correct decision was made.
Dec 11, 2013, 2:51 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while freaking out that there are now cockroaches which can survive a freezing winter just fine… Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers. He looked better. Kobe was more fluid and in part because (as he noted after the…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:24 AM EST
Kobe Bryant can dunk again. It’s not going to be remembered as one of his most thunderous throw downs, but he got around P.J. Tucker with the spin, got to the rim, took off with both feet and dunked. It’s about steps with Kobe on his return. His turnovers were down, he got a dunk…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:59 PM EST
Amir Johnson has had a couple strong games — 32 points against the Lakers Sunday, then another 19 points and 9 boards against the Spurs Tuesday. Plus this awesome block of Kawhi Leonard at the rim. Leonard is athletic, has a freakish wingspan and goes up strong. Johnson was stronger. That is what rim protection…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:09 PM EST
The Pacers wanted their Dec. 10 game vs. the Heat a whole heck of a lot more than Miami did, after falling to the eventual back-to-back champs in the Conference Finals a season ago and being very open with their goals heading into this year’s campaign. Indiana hasn’t been shy about declaring its desire to…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:40 PM EST
Jeremy Lin was playing his best basketball — at least since a couple weeks in New York a couple years ago — to start the season, having shown off a new-and-improved jumper (39 percent from three). He was a great spark plug sixth man. But he tweaked his knee back on Nov. 27 and has…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
The Charlotte basketball organization will revert from the Bobcats to the Hornets next season, in a move that has hopes of re-engaging the local fan base with what has been a historically terrible basketball franchise. Winning solves any team’s problems in terms of ticket or merchandise sales, of course, but in absence of that, an…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
NBA coaches comprise a fraternity. Many coaches like each other after years of working in the same field. Even the ones who dislike each other share an understanding of the responsibilities and pressures of this incredibly demanding job. That’s why it’s incredibly rare for a coach to publically criticize one of his peers, even if…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:40 PM EST
Danny Granger was a key reason the Pacers were supposed to be better this season — whether starting or coming off the bench, this is a former All-Star who can score the rock and add another offensive weapon to a team with the best defense in the league. However, a calf injury has sidelined him…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:44 PM EST
The Denver Nuggets have been outscored in every first quarter they’ve played this month. They’ve scored a little and fallen behind (22-18 to the Wizards on Monday night), scored a lot and still fallen behind (29-27 to the Nets on Dec. 3) and have just been plain routed (39-15 by the Celtics on Friday). Yet,…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
Tuesday night we are getting an Eastern Conference Finals preview — Indiana vs. Miami. Please let it be an Eastern Conference Finals preview, because if one of these teams stumbles due to injury or whatever else the other one can start planning what to wear to NBA Finals press conferences. It’s a two-team East this…
Dec 10, 2013, 3:23 PM EST
The Clipper locker room is not like others — Chris Paul‘s son has the run of the place and some other team members regularly bring their children in. It’s different, but it works for the Clips, who have pretty good team chemistry. Now ‘Lil Chris is showing up in the latest Foot Locker ad. And…
Dec 10, 2013, 2:32 PM EST
Randy Wittman, coaching a Wizards team that has a singular focus of reaching the 2014 playoffs, watched his squad start 2-7 – placing him firmly on the hot seat. Washington then won seven of its next nine, and even with losses in its last two games, that should be enough for Wittman to keep his…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
How much do the Chicago Bulls miss Derrick Rose at the point? It looks like they are going to pick up D.J. Augustin, who was waived Monday by the Toronto Raptors. So reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The Bulls lost superstar point guard Derrick Rose for the season, and have been searching for further…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:29 PM EST
Paul George not only has to be the focal point of the Indiana Pacers offense, but also he usually gets assigned to cover the other team’s best wing player. LeBron James does too, but often only for a quarter or so. Even Michael Jordan had a great defender in Scottie Pippen to carry the load…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:44 PM EST
This is as it should be. On Jan. 31 next year the Jazz are going to retire a number in honor of Jerry Sloan. For 23 years Sloan was the Utah Jazz — not the face of it (that would be John Stockton and Karl Malone) but the driving force behind a franchise that played…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Asked after the game Sunday night what he thought of his form in his return from an Achilles tendon rupture, Kobe Bryant said, ““Right now my form is a horse s— form” and gave himself an “F.” A day later, he softened his tone, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. “It wasn’t as…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that. Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:58 AM EST
Rudy Gay did not suit up for the Sacramento Kings Monday night. Not that they needed him, they got 32 from DeMarcus Cousins, 31 from Derrick Williams and 24 from Isaiah Thomas as they rolled to an impressive win over Dallas. However, when Gay (and Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray) walked into the building Monday…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:16 AM EST
Our own D.J. Foster asked this question in the Extra Pass this morning and he is not the only one: What is the point of the divisions in the NBA anymore? Teams don’t play the other teams in their division more than other teams now — the NBA has a “balanced schedule” where teams play…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:46 AM EST
Rudy who? The shorthanded Kings played well and put on a show in a win over Dallas Monday night. The highlight of that show? Isaiah Thomas on the fast break going off-the-backboard with the pass to Derrick Williams for the finish. Thomas had 24 points and 12 assists, Williams had a career-high 31 points in…
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