No one will ever confuse Lindsey Hunter for Carnac the Magnifisent but he did seem to have a bit of a clarvoiant moment in Portland during shoot around Tuesday.
When asked if he’d be making any changes to his starting lineup, Hunter, in a joking manner said, he wasn’t worried so much about the start of the game.
“Finishing games is the bigger concern for us,” the interim head coach said with a smile.
Little did he know just hours later his team would make his words sound almost prophetic.
Despite jumping out to a 12-0 lead to start the game and holding a 63-47 halftime advantage, the Trail Blazers would make things interesting in the final quarter. With just 20 seconds to go in the game, Portland had cut the Suns lead to two. That’s when the hard work Hunter and his team have put in over the last month paid off.
“It was a great team effort tonight,” Hunter told the media following his team’s 102-98 victory. “Defensively we were sharper than we’ve been in the past, and the majority of the game I think we really executed defensively. I think that’s the reason why we were able to get the win. Guys played the right way and shared the ball, and that’s the side effects we want to have from all the hard work we’ve put in.”
It’s that hard work and intesnse focuse on the game that Hunter has preached to his players since taking the reins of the team in January.
“I tell the guys all the time, we may come in and have a great approach and have great focus and still lose, but at least you give yourself a better chance by approaching everything we do that way,” Hunter said. “If you’re going to hold yourself to a higher standard, then that’s the approach we have to have.”
One player who’s approach to the first post all-star break game was spot on was point guard Goran Dragic. He had a career high 18 assists, 10 of which came in the first quarter, and was the catylst to the Suns offense most of the evening.
Despite the great individual acheivement, in true Dragic fashion, he passed on the praise to his teammates. (No word on whether the official scorer at the Rose Garden gave him his 19th assist for the following comments.)
“It was really fun,” he told reporters. “I would like to thank my all of my teammates — they were hitting shots. We played well, especially in the first two quatters, and then they played better defense.
“Everybody was engaged and everybody shared the ball. It was a great win for us.”
With the team playing their second game in as many nights Wednesday at Golden State, the team won’t hold shoot around. That means Hunter won’t have a chance for a repeat psychic performance. If his team plays with the same effort as they did in Portland, no prediction will be necessary.
Wes Coast Roadtrip
After spending most of the season out of the rotation, swingman Wesley Johnson found his way back on the court Tuesday night in Portland. He provided quite the spark off the bench in the 2nd quarter too. He scored 12 of his 14 points and grabbed five of his seven rebounds in the period.
“I think he did an outstanding job, considering all the time he hadn’t played,” Hunter said of Johnson’s performance. “He came in and play almost 30 minutes tonight and defended really well. I was really proud of how he performed. Hopefully he can keep it going and build on this.”
He’ll get a chance to continue to impress his coach Wednesday when the Suns take on the Warriors at 8 p.m. Phoenix time on FOX Sports Arizona and Arizona Sports 620.