As the Phoenix Suns reflect on their 99-76 drubbing of the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, March 18, they can choose to view their accomplishment in two much different ways. One way is they can downplay the victory and point to the fact that the Lakers were on a back-t0-back, without Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The other is to focus on the positives, of which there were many, while showing appreciation for a solid all-around team effort.
P.J. Tucker Sets The Tone
Coach Lindsey Hunter went with the latter, as he was very pleased with how his team played with much more energy and heart. He gave credit to P.J. Tucker for setting the tone defensively:
“P.J. Tucker set the tone, (like) a pitbull. He really sets the tone for us.”
It’s comments like these that show why Tucker is such a valuable member of the Suns. His contributions don’t often show up in the box score. For example, he was one of three Suns players that posted a negative plus/minus (-3) against the Lakers. He finished with just six points, one rebound and one steal in 17 minutes.
What can’t be measured is his heart, his energy level and his intensity. Those things are infectious to a team and Tucker provides them on a regular basis.
Luis Scola vs. Dwight Howard: Advantage Scola
Luis Scola has a similar kind of effect on his team as someone willing to do the dirty work when needed. He was matched up with Dwight Howard at times, which wasn’t something that Coach Hunter initially looked at in a positive light:
“At first, I was like ‘oh, this isn’t going to be good’. I was worried Dwight would just overpower him in the post.”
However, Howard didn’t get a shot off in the fourth quarter, turned the ball over once, committed two fouls and secured just two defensive rebounds.
“You can’t measure a person’s heart and that’s what that was. He said, I’m not going to lay down and I’m going to battle you.”
That has been the motto of the Suns as of late. They play with a great spirit and desire, which allows them to overcome a lot of mismatches.
7’2″ Futbol Star?
You expect to see jovial players at practice after a big win just as much as you expect them to be surly after a big loss. What you don’t expect to see is a futbol match breakout.
That’s what we had at the Annexus today, with the back half of the gym turning into a one-on-one contest with none other than Hamed Haddadi showing off some skills. Although Coach Hunter was speaking on his basketball skills, this quote makes sense on a lot of different levels:
“A lot of people underestimated how effective Haddadi can be. He’s getting a lot more comfortable, which is great to see. You can’t be tainted by the perception of the masses.”
Looking Ahead To Washington
The Suns will have revenge on their minds as the Washington Wizards come to the US Airways Center on Wednesday, March 20. The Wizards demolished the Suns back on March 16 by a score of 127-105 at the Verizon Center.
The Suns will have to bring the same kind of energy they had against the Lakers if they want to avoid giving up 51.6 percent shooting and 30 assists again.