Prior to the 87-85 loss the Phoenix Suns suffered on Wednesday in their season opener to the Golden State Warriors, head coach Alvin Gentry talked about how his rotation is not going to be set in stone. "I think you've got to do it on a per game basis," he said. "Closing out will be a game-by-game basis. I think the guys that are going good and and played well and feeling good about it, then those are the guys that are going to close out games."
That is what happened on Wednesday night. Reserve forward P.J. Tucker came in off the bench and sparked the team with his defensive play in the first half and scored some big buckets in the second half, and ended up closing out the game in place of the talented Michael Beasley, whom the team is counting on to become their go-to player.
After the game, Gentry simply affirmed what he said would happen. "We've always been that way here," he said when asked about Tucker playing down the stretch. "When guys are going good, they're going to stay in the game."
Tucker ended up with 10 points and helped limit Golden State's Klay Thompson to 6-16 shooting overall after he had scored eight first quarter points.
Gentry said that Tucker did "a great job" on Thompson and pointed out how the team envisions him as a player like Grant Hill was in being "the defensive guy that can guard multiple positions."
Goran Dragic praised Tucker, saying he played "amazing defense" when he came in.n "He's just aggressive all over the court," Dragic explained. "If you are going to win games like these, everyone has to play like that."
Tucker said that his role on the team will be "exactly what [he] did tonight," playing hard and playing defense.
His 10 points were a bonus, but in the end it wasn't enough.
The Warriors went on a 13-2 run to start the second quarter and led by as many as 17. By then, the Sun had to play catch up. They did, pulling within six by halftime, leading by two heading into the fourth quarter and building the lead up to eight early in the final quarter.
However, the team only shot 40 percent and, according to Dragic, just didn't hit enough shots.
"Obviously it's a disappointing loss," said Gentry, noting that you want to win the home opener for the fans. However, he did note there were "a lot of good things" the team did. The held the Warriors to 11 fast break points and eight of those were off of Suns' turnovers. Golden State had four guys that shot over 45 percent from three-point range before and the team limited them to 29 percent for the game, 38 percent shooting overall.
That defensive effort is what led Gentry to say emphatically, "I really feel that we're going to become a good team."
He said "the effort was there." In the end, the Suns "just looked like a team that had nine new players."
The Suns are 0-1 and they have things to work on. They have to shoot better. They have to get comfortable with one another. They can't give up 17 offensive rebounds like they did to Golden State.
Gentry likes what he sees overall and is sure that the team is going to be good. It just isn't there quite yet after one game.