Tucker: "Just winning. That’s all that matters."

P.J. Tucker isn’t just built like a football player, he has a gridiron mentality when it comes to basketball too.

Like the late great football legend Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

Well, maybe it was him. We’re not 100% sure that Lombardi actually said it since, according to Google, the quote has been attributed to numerous football coaches. What we do know is the message behind the quote resonates with Tucker regardless of its origin.

After practice Wednesday when asked about what a successful night guarding Kevin Durant would be he, without hesitation, answered quickly and as matter of fact as one could.

“Just winning,” the starting small forward said. “Just winning. That’s all that matters. He can have 80 but if we win I won [the matchup].”

It’s what makes P.J., P.J., and why he’s the Suns undisputed defensive stopper. A simple mentality that has served him and the team well. Just win.

Doing that against one of the top teams in the league is easier said than done. Coach Hornacek realizes his team has a tall task in front of them if they hope to take down the West’s best in the 46-15 Thunder.

“They’re a good team,” Coach said after practice. “They’re an experienced team. They’ve been in the finals. They have some great players on that team. Obviously Durant is a handful.

“It’s going to be one of those tough games for us. Our guys can believe they can win any game. They might not win it but at least they believe we can. We’ll give it a shot.”

And Tucker is the epitome of that mentality. Despite giving up, height, weight and natural talent to many of the opponents he’s tasked in guarding, like Durant, he has decided that his work ethic will beat out their talent almost every time.

Winning is everything even if it means he takes a beating on the basketball court the way a defender might on the football field. Even if that means losing the individual battler but winning the war. Let’s just hope he does it without allowing anyone to drop 80 on him, especially a guy named Durant whom he helped recruit to Texas.