Lindsey Hunter experienced his first loss as an NBA head coach last night as the Phoenix Suns fell short to the San Antonio Spurs after Spurs guard Tony Parker took over the game in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it won’t get easier for Lindsey Hunter as the Suns are set to take on the Dallas Mavericks tonight at the American Airlines Arena.
“I think our guys did a really good job executing, fighting defensively,” Hunter said. “We accomplished everything we talked about, our intensity, our focus and our mental preparation. That’s what it’s about. I couldn’t be more proud of a team than these guys right now.”
The Phoenix Suns still has Jermaine O’Neal listed as day-to-day on the injured list after O’Neal discovered an irregular heartbeat and he’s been ruled out for tonight’s game. The Dallas Mavericks has Bernard James listed as day to day on the injured list.
Heading into tonight’s match-up between the Suns and the Mavericks the Mavericks are the favorite by a 7.0 margin according to ESPN.com. The Suns have lost 10 straight games against the Mavericks in Dallas. The Suns haven’t won a game in Dallas since March 2007 when the Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks in that classic double overtime game led by Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Keys to the game: Suns
- Defend the three point line! The Dallas Mavericks are a tremendous three-point shooting team led by O.J Mayo. Mayo has actually been struggling with his shot as of late but nonetheless he’s still a very dangerous shooter. Mayo is shooting a career best 42% from behind three point line this season.
- Once again, it was the high volume of turnovers that crippled the Phoenix Suns last night. In the last nights lost to the San Antonio Spurs, the Suns turned the ball over 17 times which led to 22 points for the Spurs. The Suns have shown vast improvement on both ends of the floor since Lindsey Hunter took over as head coach but nonetheless the Suns still aren’t good enough offensively to be able to make up for all those lost possessions.
- Match their bench! The Dallas Mavericks has a highly talented bunch off the bench, between guys like Vince Carter, Chris Kaman, and rookie Jae Crowders, needless to say they are formidable. The Suns bench was a huge part of their success last night against the Spurs led by Michael Beasley who poured in 25 points off the bench; Beasley has absolutely flourished under new head coach Lindsey Hunter, in his last three games Beasley is averaging over 17 points per game on over 50% shooting from the field.
Keys to the game: Mavericks
- Defense! The Dallas Mavericks has been absolutely atrocious on the defensive end of the court this season allowing opponents to score 103.2 points per game on average which is ranked 28th overall in the NBA.
- Dirk Nowitzki. Good news is Dirk has finally returned and is back to playing in the starting role with heavy minutes however it’s been pretty obvious that he’s not the same old Dirk. Since his return from injury during late December, Dirk has reached the 20 point mark twice! At this point his team needs more from him.
The X factor!
- Lindsey Hunter! Hunter seemingly had a difficult time juggling his rotation last night against the Spurs which was without a doubt a costly error on the part of Hunter. Hunter is still an inexperienced coach and it showed last night when Hunter made some questionable substitution moves or rather questionable non-made substitution moves.
Matchup of the night!
- For tonight’s game instead of looking at individuals matched up one-on-one, I’m going to look at the collective bunch. As in the Phoenix Suns bench versus the Dallas Mavericks bench. The Dallas Mavericks bench rank fifth overall in the NBA in scoring while the Suns bench rank 14th. Nonetheless it should be a good one to watch with the resurgence of Beasley for Phoenix and the rise of Roddy Beaubois for Dallas.