Time: 6 p.m. MST
PHOENIX — No matter how far the Phoenix Suns fall down the Western Conference ladder, interim coach Lindsey Hunter doesn’t want to panic. He took an easy day on Saturday, according to The Arizona Republic, and all along is hoping to stay the course.
With the Brooklyn Nets coming into U.S. Airways Center on Sunday on the second game of a back-to-back, Phoenix has a shot to turn things around, although against an opponent with a bit more on the line. The Nets sit fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings and coming off a tight, 101-95, loss to the Los Angeles Clippers will be licking their lips at the sight of the limping Suns.
“Brooklyn ain’t going to come in here and say, ‘Aw they ain’t got no bigs, ah, we going to lay down, we going to take it easy on ‘em,’” Suns forward P.J. Tucker said. “They’re going to try to knock our heads off.”
Former Sun Joe Johnson is out for the Nets with a right quad contusion and Keith Bogans will start in his place.
<pThe Suns have suffered partly because of injury and illness. Jermaine O'Neal and Jared Dudley could be gametime decisions depending on how much their stomach illness has faded. Since O'Neal is also rehabbing a minor calf injury, the Suns will likely be at a size disadvantage once again.
That hurts against Brooklyn, which has been inconsistent on the rebounding front. At times — see the two games prior to the loss to Los Angeles — the Nets can dominate the boards. But against the Clippers Saturday, Reggie Evans' 16 rebounds were hardly aided, as no other Brooklyn player brought down more than three rebounds.
Fatigue could be an issue for the Nets.
The game against Phoenix is the fourth of an eight-game road swing, and stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson appeared fatigue Saturday night. Williams went 6-of-16 for 18 points in 38 minutes, and Johnson went 6-of-18 for 15 points. He is also dealing with a heel soreness and is averaging 13.3 points on 43 percent shooting over the course of the last 10 games played.
So Phoenix could perhaps use a day’s rest to freshen their legs. It’ll also give them a chance to press the reset button by slowing down, looking themselves in the mirror and coming out with pride on the line.
“Go out there to represent yourself, organization, team, what we’ve been fighting all year for,” Tucker said.
“We’re playing pretty much without any of our bigs, which is tough, but like I said, we got to find deep down inside, go out there and fight. If all of us got to foul out of a game, we got to go out there and fight every single night.”
As for Hunter, fighting through the struggles is the only thing he knows.
“We stay the course, don’t make excuses,” Hunter said. “We take it, we learn from it and we move forward.”
“I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum,” he added. “I understand what they’re going through and I understand how to come out of it. I realize that you have to stay the course.”