You want a test eh? You want a measuring stick? Enter the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant has his team playing terrific basketball already and in their fourth game in five nights last night against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks the Thunder shot a crazy 58.7% from the field and won the game on an insane Durant buzzerbeater. The Thunder sit atop the Western Conference at 4-0.
After 3 games the Phoenix Suns sit 1-2 and have the 9th best team DRtg in the league. What? You can continue to make excuses about how the Hornets' offense was terrible last night but there is no question that the Suns are playing a much higher level of defense than we're used to seeing here in the desert. The Suns also hold the 3rd lowest turnover average per game at 13 - they are taking care of the ball and getting after it defensively, those are good things.
Another positive is that our offensive identity started to poke it's head out just a little bit last night, especially from our shooting guard position and in our fastbreak transition points. The team was legitimately 'running' again last night and it was a very welcome familiar sight.
So tonight we will see if the Suns can continue to improve. The Thunder are a very young and athletic group of physical dudes, this will be our first back to back game of the season - but also this will be the 5th game in 6 nights for the Thunder. Let's get ready to rumble. A little more after the jump.
Here's a few positives and Negatives I noted from last night's game -
- Our team chemistry and rhythm looked really good last night - the team was running and moving the ball well, but more importantly (to me anyways) was how the team stuck together last night when things got gritty. Shannon Brown picked up a technical foul halfway through the 2nd quarter after Warrick was questionably called for an offensive foul, and when Trevor Ariza lost his mind and decided to try and be tough guy with Robin Lopez (BAD idea) all four of his on court teammates rushed to his defense. These might be little insignificant things - but there is no question that they improve the overall team chemistry... it's like in Super Mario Brothers when Mario eats a flower and then turns into Fire Mario and can shoot fireballs... yeah something like that.
- Defense was really tight - rotations were good, close outs were fast and the game was very physical from the start to the finish.
- Hakim Warrick continues to shine.
- Our Shooting guards (Dudley and Brown) combined for 27 points - that is a good day. We need need need that.
- Nash really was pushing the offense and Price did a good job backing him up - not too many times did I see our PGs walk the ball up.
- In the Suns first two games combined - they only made 7 3-point shots - in last nights game they matched that with 7.
- Our Rebounding differential is terrible. We are the 6th worst in the NBA after 3 games and we gave up 24 offensive rebounds last night (that is uber-terrible)... I'm guessing because the shooting was so bad last night the ball was hitting the rims at all kinds of crazy angles and that always makes securing the rebound a challenge. But the Suns have to improve their rebounding regardless. It's frustrating when you hear Elston Turner before the season harp on how that's what the Suns need to do most and here we sit at 6th worst in the league. Must improve.
- We still only shot 42% from the field - and a dirty 30% from 3. That's not going to get it done - especially not tonight against Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
- Through 3 games Channing Frye is shooting 20% from the field and a ridiculously laughable 17% from 3. His timing is off and he's rushing everything. I don't know exactly what it is he needs to do but I can see that his shooting motion is not consistent like it was last year, he's fading to weird angles, his feet are discombobulated, he's pump faking and still chucking up bad shots A LOT. We need Frye to figure it out soon.
Historically Grant Hill has been able to do an amazing Job on Kevin Durant defensively, for whatever reason Durant is one of the Superstars in the league that has a really hard time with Grant Hill defending him - but my big concern is that Hill and Nash played well over 30 minutes in last night's game and historically as well those two have not been the sharpest on the 2nd half of back-to-back series. But again like I mentioned above - the Thunder are playing their 5th game in 6 nights and very well might have some spaghetti legs too. At least I'm crossing my fingers.
I'm looking forward to seeing how our new defense will contain Russel Westbrook. It seems like every time we play the Thunder he is constantly just bull-rushing his way to the rim. Every game I think to myself, "Somebody just needs to knock him on his back just one time to make him think twice before running over Nash and wildly hurling his body towards the hoop". RoLo, Keef - I'm looking to you guys to inflict some pain.
Anyways - here's to hoping we can get another road win and even up our record. I'm very jealous that Alex was the first Bright Side staffer to notch a win under his watch... and it's curious that nobody from the staff wanted to take this game, maybe it's because it's New Years Eve and they all have plans to hang with Sun God and Scott and get plastered... or maybe they were scared of the Thunder. Either way I'll be here with you and I'm confident the Suns can get a win, let's end 2011 with a bang!
See you at 5:30 for the game thread.
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