Lindsey Hunter got his wish. Before the Phoenix Suns’ loss to the Pacers this week, he spent a pregame media meeting talking about his personality as a player that made a career as a defensive bulldog.
“I love chippiness. I love playing with an edge,” Hunter said. “I love being on the floor thinking a fight may break out any minute. It’s kind of fun. Not a brawl, but a pushing match.”
The Suns found themselves exactly that Wednesday night — if only they had showed that much togetherness and that refusal to back down in between the whistles and not after they blew. A shoving match cropped up after the Suns had already lost control against the Los Angeles Clippers in what eventually became a 126-101 blowout in Staples Center.
Clippers center Ryan Hollins implemented a fullcourt press on a Suns inbounds pass early in the fourth but put an elbow just below Goran Dragic’s neck to push him out of position. Dragic took offense and locked into Hollins’ body, drawing a foul, then the two became further entangled as Dragic turned.
Hollins seemingly put the Suns guard in a headlock in front of a clearing Suns bench.
Hollins was ejected with a Flagrant 1 foul after the scrum dispersed, but Michael Beasley also got tagged with a trip to the locker room and a single technical foul; likely, that was for moving into the scrum after the whistle was blown.
That 30-second scrum came and went just about as suddenly as Phoenix’s effort Wednesday.
About the only thing Phoenix had going for it in the first quarter was drawing an early technical foul on Griffin, who towered purposely over a fallen Dragic. That drew a confrontation with Suns forward P.J. Tucker, who also received a technical. Meanwhile, the Suns found themselves down 15-0 just four minutes into the game. Hunter’s team, however, responded soon after the second timeout of the game with a 10-0 spurt to gain a tad bit of traction.
The Suns kept it close in the second behind Jermaine O’Neal’s instant offense against the athletic Lob City Clippers. He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, and both he and Michael Beasley put in 10 points each in the second quarter. But the Clippers’ frontline made up for their poor defense on the other end.
Phoenix trailed 66-60 four minutes into the third quarter when the Clippers flipped the switch. They blasted the Suns with a 27-6 run over the course of seven minutes to put any thoughts of an upset out of reach. During that span, the Clippers turned nine Suns turnovers into 13 points, and DeAndre Jordan took a few lobs for 10 easy points in the quarter.
Jordan scored 20 points, the first time since Nov. 8 that he has eclipsed the 17-point mark.
Chris Paul added 15 points, 12 assists and four steals, and he thoroughly outplayed Dragic, who struggled by shooting 3-11 from the floor to go with only four assists and five turnovers. Markieff Morris reverted to his low-confidence chucking and shot 1-of-10 from the floor, and Luis Scola recorded a double-double but was a major defensive liability against the Clippers’ lobability.
Of the starters, only Wesley Johnson put in any sort of an impressive game. He scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, often hitting contested shots by using his athleticism and length to get off his shot with seemingly no airspace.
Beasley was efficient and engaged off the bench for 13 points and three assists. Before his trip to the locker room, he and Dragic exchanged a meaty high-five after the Suns left the scrum with Hollins. That quick moment was a sign that perhaps the only good thing to take away for Phoenix was that the Suns were still looking out for their teammates.
Still, Hunter’s pleas with his team to earn respect wasn’t answered outside of a few minutes here and another few there.
Clipper Eric Bledsoe stole a pass with no Sun in front of him with 25 seconds left in the game and tossed the ball off the backboard for an alley-oop layup. It was Los Angeles’ final points of the game — disrespectful indeed.
So Hunter got his wish for a scrum. And his team got an pricey ticket (dignity-wise at least) out of Staples Center.
Behind the numbers
The Los Angeles Clippers scored 38 points in the third quarter and never less than 28 in any period. Phoenix allowed 56 percent shooting to Vinny Del Negro’s squad, but when it wasn’t a breakdown of effort, it was 21 turnovers leading to 34 points for LA.
The Clippers only had six turnovers themselves, and they outscored Phoenix 72-32 in the paint and 25-11 in fastbreak opportunities.