Phoenix Suns find defensive success with simplified schemes

Christian Petersen

The Suns have cut a lot of things out of the playbook this week in order to focus on specific schemes and get it right every time.

One of the first things interim coach Lindsey Hunter did when he took over was to strip the playbook and schemes down to the bare bones.

"We're not going to practice till we get it," he said earlier this week. "We're going to practice till we can't forget it."

Tired of watching the Suns miss on defensive rotations time and again with no rhyme or rhythm - always a different rotation would falter, and always by different guys - new coach Lindsey Hunter cut out a whole lot of options and asked his players to get one thing right at a time.

"We really simplified it," Jared Dudley said last night. "Basically dummy down the defense, doing one thing every time so there's no confusion. We just said hey, we're going to one thing really, really well."

The plan last night was to deny the paint to the Clippers long, pretty-dunking bigs by staying behind them at all times.

"We want to be proactive, not reactive. You got to get there a step early, you want to get there before they get into the paint."

After giving up 57 first-half points in Sacramento ("I knew it would happen, someone would call 'blue' when there's no 'blue' anymore), the Suns have tightened their defense and surrendered just 39 second-half points to the Kings and 86 over four quarters to the Clippers.

The Suns held the Clippers to only 38 points in the paint and nearly broke even on the boards. A Western Conference scout was impressed enough with the Suns' defense that he credited their effort more than any shortcoming on the Clippers part.

For two games at least, notably missing from the Suns defensive efforts are the uncontested jump shots and the broken-down secondary rotations.

"That's been our focus, to create a defensive mentality. It's a difficult thing to change like that, and to see every last guy buying in to it and realizing that regardless of how you shoot the ball if you can defend you always have a chance to win the game. Our guys have been phenomenal in that area.

"The weak side is really starting to get better. It's been a total team effort defensively. Our guys are starting to understand and willing to do the little things it takes to be a good defensive team."

But Luis Scola and Lindsey Hunter are preaching patience.

"It's only two games," Hunter said. "You can't buy too much into that."

"Don't get too comfortable," Luis Scola said. "To say that we fixed the problem. It's only been one game. We played well, and it's encouraging. But we have played well in the past, we beat good teams (Memphis, Utah, Chicago). We proved that we can play good games."

"We did good today. I just don't feel we fixed anything yet. We got to go to San Antonio and do it again."

Hunter preaches that the best way to succeed is to play the defensive end of the court.

"I would always want to hang my hat on defense," he said. "No matter how you're shooting, you can always guard. You can always have second effort. That's a constant."

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