Anyone recall the last time the Phoenix Suns were looking up at the Sacramento Kings in the standings? How times have changed…
The Phoenix Suns for the first time in nearly four season will not be led by head coach Alvin Gentry as Gentry was fired last Friday, instead the Suns will be led by new head coach Lindsey Hunter. Tonight will be Hunter’s first game as an NBA head coach.
“I think the simple answer is that the organization needed a jolt,” general manager Lance Blanks said regarding the hiring of Hunter. “We needed something that would shock the system of us, the players, and risk trumps safety in this business. We felt this was the right person to take the risk on.”
Hunter played 17 seasons in the NBA and in his first three practices as the Suns head coach, according to sources his practices have been a bit longer than Alvin Gentry’s.
“I know these practices are a lot longer than they are accustomed to, but we’ve got a lot to get accomplished,” Hunter said. “Like I told them, I don’t watch the clock. I just watch what they do, and we have to work until we can’t forget what we’re supposed to do, not until we get it. We have to work until we can’t forget it.”
Going into tonight’s game, the Kings are the favorite by a margin of 3.5 points. The Suns will be without Jermaine O’Neal as he’s dealing with some health issues and did not travel with the team. The Kings on the other hand has Thomas Robinson listed as day-to-day on the injured list, Robinson left the King’s game on Saturday against the Bobcats after taking a shot to the mouth which dislodged one of his teeth; he’s questionable for tonight’s game.
Keys to the game: Suns
– Defend the 3-point line! The Kings aren’t the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the NBA by any means but nonetheless they have some gunners on that roster between Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton, and Aaron Brooks.
– New coach, new start. The Suns need to put the first 41 games they played this season behind them and hopefully the Suns can finish out the rest of the season with some pride and dignity.
– No turnovers! Just because there’s a new coach for the Suns it doesn’t turnovers will no longer be an issue. The Suns are still not good enough offensively to be able to make up for 15+ turnovers during the course of any game.
Keys to the game: Kings
– Storm out of the gates! The Suns aren’t high in confidence at this point, and what team would be if they were off to one of their worst starts in past three decades. If the Kings can jump out to an early 15-18 point lead in the first half, the Suns may not have enough will power to fight back.
– Feed the beast! Give Cousins the ball and get out of the way! DeMarcus Cousins has absolutely dominated the Suns in Sacramento in recent memory. In Cousins last four home games against the Suns he’s averaging 28 points per game on well over 50% shooting.
– Time for the young guns? There have been talks regarding the Suns younger players such as Kendall Marshall, Wesley Johnson and others, and whether or not those guys will get more playing time now that there’s a new head coach. I guess we’ll see.
Match-up of the night!
– DeMarcus Cousins vs. Marcin Gortat! Cousins just goes into beast mode whenever he plays the Suns. Gortat did a good job on him when the Suns beat the Kings in Phoenix on December 17th. During that game Gortat held Cousins to just 9 points on 1 of 10 shooting from the floor. Gortat will be relied upon to repeat his great defensive performance from a few weeks ago.