Hunter 2-0 as coach after Suns beat Clippers

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 25, 2013 at 1:42 am •  Published: January 25, 2013
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PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns are 2-0 under Lindsey Hunter, and the Los Angeles Clippers dearly miss Chris Paul.

Goran Dragic scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half and the Suns held on to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 93-88 on Thursday night, giving Hunter his second victory in two nights as interim coach after he replaced the fired Alvin Gentry.

Marcin Gortat added 15 points, including two free throws with 23.3 seconds left. Luis Scola and Markieff Morris had 14 apiece for the Suns, who have won consecutive games for the first time since a season-high, four-game winning streak ended on Dec. 19. Dragic also had eight assists.

The Clippers, who lost their third straight, were without Paul for the fifth time in seven games because of a bruised right kneecap. The team is 3-2 without him, and he's expected to miss two more games.

Jamal Crawford led Los Angeles with 21 points. Eric Bledsoe scored 15 and Blake Griffin had 12. Griffin said he reinjured his left ankle early in the game but still played 36 minutes.

"Our offense was stagnant," Griffin said. "Our defense wasn't great. We did a poor job and it starts with me. I have to do a better job of setting the tone early and being a leader out there, especially with Chris not out there."

The Clippers shot just under 40 percent for the game, 33 percent (7 for 21) in the fourth quarter.

"Our focus is to create a defensive mentality, to create a defensive presence," Hunter said. "Our guys are working hard to do it. It's a difficult thing to just change like that. To see every last guy really buying into it and realizing that regardless of how you shoot the ball, if you can defend you always have a chance to win a game, and our guys have been phenomenal in that area."

Phoenix improved to 15-28 and pulled out of the cellar in the Western Conference, one-half game ahead of New Orleans.

"When you change a coach, you always get a little bit of a reaction from everybody," Scola said. "Everybody wants to play a little bit harder and everybody wants to do a little bit more. This is just a critical situation and everybody gives a little bit more of themselves. Our challenge is to maintain this."

The Clippers slipped to 32-12, 1½ games behind West leaders Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The three-game losing streak is Los Angeles' second-longest of the season.

The Suns, who won at Sacramento on Wednesday night, scored six in a row to go up 86-79 on Gortat's layup on a pass from Dragic with three minutes left. But the Clippers reeled off the next six points.

Bledsoe blocked Dragic's shot and Crawford sank a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 86-85 with 26 seconds remaining.