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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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The Suns training staff works wonders to keep players healthy and playing at peak condition, but no amount of therapy can prevent or fix a heart issue.

Channing Frye has an enlarged heart whose healing process includes a year without putting undue stress on the body and allowing the heart to heal itself.

By comparison, Jermaine O'Neal's irregular heartbeat may appear innocuous but its worst-case scenario is just as fatal.

"I didn't know what was really happening," O'Neal said. "I thought I was having a heart attack."

O'Neal said he felt fine through early Monday afternoon, after practice and the alleged confrontation with the Suns' front office. He went home to eat and rest. Hours later, he felt his heart skipping around. He's had a murmur for a long time, like many folks, so at first he felt it was just that and would pass.

But the skipping heartbeat did not subside and after a mostly sleepless night he came to see the trainers on Tuesday and was immediately whisked to the hospital for tests while the rest of the team flew to Sacramento for a game.

The team only reported that O'Neal missed the plane due to what they termed an "unidentifed medical issue".

"I didn't feel comfortable talking about it," he said of the report. "Because there wasn't anything to talk about it at the time till we figured out what was the problem. I didn't really know what was happening.

"I am 34 years old. Basketball isn't the #1 thing. I am the sole provider of my family. I'm a father, husband, son."

Per O'Neal, he was laying in the hospital bed after a battery of tests when he realized that fans and some media were accusing him of quitting on the team over the coaching change.

"I'm sitting at the hospital," he said. "And I'm like 'wait a minute, where'd they get that from?'"

He pled his case via twitter while on strong medication to calm his heart and has felt better each day since then as the meds do their work.

"They put me on some medication," O'Neal said. "It's a three-to-four day process to see if it helps. May need a lower dosage or a different type of medicine."

He said he felt better on Thursday than he had on any day since Monday night, though he was still dizzy if he jumped up too much during the game. Even Wednesday night was a tough one, he said, with breathing problems, after they had adjusted his medicine from Tuesday. But he trusts the process and was ready to take as long as he needed to recover.

"The main responsibility is to stay alive."

Sometimes, what you hear is all there is. There's no ulterior, clandestine motive of defiance. There's no tie-in to every other story in the news. It just what it is.

In this case, just hope (and pray, if that's what you do) that Jermaine O'Neal gets healthy again. And cheer him when he steps back out on that court.

PHOENIX – For the Los Angeles Clippers, it was a night those people who know the history of the Phoenix Suns can related to. Without their All-Star point guard, Chris Paul, there was something...

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PHOENIX — Jermaine O’Neal has missed the last two games with an irregular heartbeat, and the Phoenix Suns center said he’ll be able to return when he and his doctors figure out the...

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It goes without saying that the any team is different without their star player, but the Los Angeles Clippers (32-12) sans Chris Paul have a lot of ability, but little direction. In the first two match-ups against the Phoenix Suns (15-28) the All-Star point guard put up 16.5 points, 12 assists, and 3.5 steals per game in two routes.

Without him it was a grind for four quarters.

Early Game Success

The first quarter had a lot of things to like as the Suns forced four early turnovers that led to eight points. That energized the team as well as did the presence of Suns great Charles Barkley and the TNT crew. They did not want to get embarrassed on National TV so despite coming in on a back-to-back they grinded this out with solid defense and effort.

That energy translated to the second quarter as they took a 35-8 lead (proof below) on the Clippers. Everything possible is being give to new interim head coach Lindsey Hunter including knowledgeable assistants, player support, and scoreboard malfunctions.

Scoreboard Snafu

Getting To The Line

A major part of the Suns ability to hang in the game was their knack for getting to the foul line. For the game they shot (26-37) which was eleven more attempts than the Clippers. They were the aggressor led by Goran Dragic with a career-high 14 trips to the line on the night going 11-14.

Grant Came Back... Home

Early in the game former Suns wing Grant Hill came in and played exactly as you would expect him to against a young team that he knows pretty well. He toyed with opposing wings Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown taking charges, making passes, and plays on the defensive end. It was nice to see Hill back, healthy, and on the court.

The fans of the Valley showed their appreciation with a loud cheer and nearly unanimous standing ovation.

The Bottom Line

A Chris Paul-less offense is tough to watch. On the season the Clippers average 101.5 points per game as a team, good for seventh in the league.

Without Paul the team sputtered late with miscues, turnovers, and a lack of a clear direction. Blake Griffin was not the focal point of the offense that was erratic and lost. Jamal Crawford was able to get up some shots, but they were not efficient.

Three brutal possessions (two shot-clock violations and a bad early shot by Shannon Brown) allowed the Clippers to cut the lead to 86-85 with 26.9 to go behind a Crawford three. He then proceed to clank his first free-throw moments later allowing Brown to leak out for a clear path foul. Two free-throws and the ball. Game.

In the end the Hunter regime proved consistent with a second straight win behind that defensive effort he spoke about in his news conference. The Suns pulled it out late with a 93-88 victory.

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