The Phoenix Suns came roaring out of the gate in a game they HAD to win to stay in the playoff race. They got up 54-34 on the Thunder by halfway through the second quarter, and the rout was on. The offense looked fluid, and the defense was focused.

The rout was on all right. Just not in the Suns favor.

The Thunder, behind Russell Westbrook, came back to tie up the game late in the third period and then an onslaught of broken-play threes and fast break layups by the Thunder's second unit stole the show.

The Thunder's second unit made five threes in the opening minutes of the fourth to lay the boom on the Suns, putting the Thunder up 12 (85-73) before they knew what hit them.

The rest of the game was just playing out the string.

And now the Thunder have a 4-game lead on the Suns in the playoff race with just 8 games to go.

That's the season, folks.

Let's recap the young guys:

  • In good news, T.J. Warren had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 29 minutes, and Alex Len had 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in 25 minutes.
  • In bad news, Brandon Knight went missed 9 of 10 shots before re-rolling his ankle, and Archie Goodwin did his best Gerald Green impression that got the Thunder started on their onslaught in the 4th.

First quarter

The Suns came out focused. You never know what you're going to get with this team, and tonight they came out ready to execute. Markieff Morris scored the Suns first 11 points on a variety of shots.

They had assists on 9 of their first 11 field goals. This is the SUNS here. Bledsoe was passing and distributing well. Marcus and P.J. Tucker played hard and stayed within themselves.

And the OKC "fours" really didn't have enough lateral quickness to stay with the Suns quickness. All around, it was quite a start for the Suns.

At this point, I remind you that the Thunder are the league's 28th rated defense over the last 12 games. And in this one they are making the Suns look like a juggernaut.

Suns up 35 to 24 after one.

Markieff Morris led the Suns with 16 of their 35 points. Marcus had 4 points, 5 rebounds. Bledsoe had 4 assists.

Second quarter

The Suns kept pouring it on in the second, starting it off with a 13-5 run to take a 48-30 lead behind T.J. Warren's scoring and Brandon Knight's playmaking.

The Suns lead got up to 54-34 after what was called a "common" foul on Russell Westbrook who took down Marcus Morris on a fast break drive.

Then, on the next play, Brandon Knight blocked a D.J. Augustin three-point attempt, except that 2/3 of the way to the basket the ref blew his whistle and called the three-shot foul. A play later, Westbrook made a three and the Suns lead was back down to 14.

Westbrook barrelled into Bledsoe on the next possession for another delayed foul call and it was a 12 point game. He got a couple more scores (mostly on foul calls) and it got down to an 8-point halftime lead.

Suns up 62-54 at halftime.

Marcus Morris had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Markieff had 20 points, 2 rebounds. Alex Len had 9 big rebounds, 2 blocked shots. Eric Bledsoe had 6 assists, but 4 turnovers.

Russell Westbrook had 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.

Third quarter

Both teams opened sloppy, but Bledsoe got a nice midrange jumper and then the Thunder made a couple of jumpers to briefly cut the Suns lead to five.

The Suns went into an awful shooting funk, starting the quarter 4 for 18, including 0 for 10 in one stretch, to allow the Thunder to tie the game at 71-71.

After a quick basket, T.J. Warren got a couple of nice hustle buckets (with T.J. is there any other kind?) to help the Suns build the lead back up and take a 79-76 lead into the fourth quarter.

That's really all we need to say about the third quarter.

Fourth quarter

Well, this started real bad with the Thunder scoring four straight points to take the lead, but then T.J. did it again with a "where'd he come from?" bucket at the rim.

Archie was out of control - kind of a 6'5" Gerald Green - trying to get 20 points a minute. D.J. Augustin picked his pocket to open the quarter and after that Archie was all about showing up Augustin, which didn't go that well. Archie got a score on one one-man fast break, but failed to score the next time, had another turnover and gave up points on the other end by overplaying.

The Thunder had a 85-83 lead and Archie was done.

Then the Thunder kept making their kick-out threes and quickly the lead was 12.

That escalated quickly.

Phoenix- Help is on the way for the sputtering Phoenix Suns (38-35) on Sunday night in their must-win game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (41-32). Guard Brandon Knight will play after missing the...

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By all reasonable expectations the Phoenix Suns (38-35) should not have competed for a playoff spot last season. They shouldn’t have been competitive in any context. Yet behind a five month...

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A preview of the Suns' must-win game against Oklahoma City with playoff hopes on the line.


The Thunder have pushed the Suns all-in, and it is win or go home for Phoenix. If the Suns pull out a win tonight, they remain right in the thick of the playoff race. A loss and you can call it quits, the Suns will be fighting for nothing more than a winning record in the history books.

Let’s get one thing good and straight before tonight’s game: If the Suns lose this game they will not make the playoffs. A loss tonight to Oklahoma City puts the Phoenix Suns 4 GB the Western Conference 8th seed and with an OKC win giving them a 3-1 head-to-head tie breaker it would functionally be a five game lead for the Thunder. The Suns would also (likely) be 1.5 GB the Pelicans who face a murderously tough Minnesota Timberwolves team tonight, in the Smoothie King Center (seriously, New Orleans?).

But if the Suns win tonight they are absolutely in contention. Phoenix would tie Oklahoma City in the season head-to-head column and would guarantee themselves the second tiebreaker over OKC if it came down to it. There is no way for the Suns to close the gap on Oklahoma City in terms of record without also taking the lead in the conference record race. New Orleans may get the benefit of playing Minnesota, Los Angeles—not the one with Chris Paul--, and Sacramento but they also still have to play Phoenix between now and the end of the season and their schedule isn’t anything to scoff at… Okay it’s a little bit to scoff at.

Plain and simple, the Suns and their fans still have a season to cheer for if Phoenix wins tonight, even if they would still be the underdogs. If they lose, it’s over. Plug in TJ and Archie for 36 minutes a night, shut down Bledsoe the moment it becomes mathematically impossible, and if Len so much as turns his ankle walking up stairs sit him for the rest of the season.

These are the stakes. Let’s go SUNS!

What Vegas Thinks: ¾ of a Basket (Thunder -1.5, O/U)

I’ve gotta say, I’ve never understood a line where one team is getting 1.5 points. 1.5 points? Some of the closest games I have ever seen have ended with a team losing by more than that. Is there a single person in Vegas who is going to bet on the Suns using the logic "Well, I don’t think Phoenix is going to win, but I think there is a good chance that if they don’t win they can cover." Just call it what it is, a toss-up!

Regardless of my qualms with the ¾ of a basket advantage OKC is getting over the Suns, the over/under on this game is insane in my humble opinion. Suns games have hit the under in 9 of their last 10, and none of those games have gotten within two possessions of 214. Granted, OKC hasn’t been able to defend a pick and roll to save their life and the last Thunder-Suns showdown resulted in 230 points being scored but I am going under all the way with this one. 214 just seems far-fetched given the Suns recent style of play.

Vegas Prediction: Thunder 108 Suns 106

What the National Media Thinks: Nothing rhymes with…

Enes Kanter reminded us that ugly break ups are always funny when they aren’t happening to us. Yesterday Kanter made comments about the Utah Jazz organization and their professionalism, or lack thereof, and professed his love for Oklahoma City. The Jazz have played better without Kanter, and the rim protection duo of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert has been incredibly effective. Kanter has been a daily double-double guy for the Thunder. So why the bad break up? Shouldn’t both parties be happy with their new roster?

Ultimately, last night was just a competition between ex’s for who is better off now that they have broken up. Suns fans should be happy that Enes opened his mouth because apparently Trey Burke took offense and turned into Isaiah Thomas last night. Suns fans should also be happy because this whole ordeal was proof that it isn’t at all strange to get into a spitting contest with guys after they get traded or leave the franchise, a frequent tactic of the Phoenix FO.

Kanter really has no reason to be frustrated with the Jazz. They have a defensive minded coach and Kanter didn’t play a lick of defense and yet he frequently played 25+ minutes a night. The Jazz shouldn’t be frustrated with Kanter either, he was a skilled big man in the post for them and yet they shoved him out to the wings to make room for raw talent in Gobert. These two weren’t a good fit, are both in better positions now that the trade happened, and neither really screwed the other. But break ups are tough, so maybe this will be a fun sideshow story line for years to come.

What Oklahoma City Fans Think: Remember this moment

The biggest story here on Bright Side of the Sun right now is clearly the playoff race, and that is great. There is also Brandon Knight’s impending free agency, the young guns waiting in the wings, Alex Len’s ankles, the Morrii being hilariously and devastatingly frustrating, and Eric Bledsoe’s value versus potential value. These are all great and interesting story lines and how each individual story line plays out will factor into determining the future of the Suns franchise, along with a dozen other story lines we may or may not even know about yet.

All of these stories are absolutely nothing in comparison to Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant’s foot injury and Kevin Durant’s free agency in Oklahoma City. Right now, with a superstar and impending free agent sitting out the remainder of his second to last season under contract and a foot with multiple screws in it being the reason, it is fair for OKC fans to believe their entire franchise hangs in the balance. Without Durant they lose Westbrook just one year later, and then it is all the way back to square one. ALL the way back.

SB Nation brother site Welcome to Loud City has been covering the topic ferociously, with stories such as this and this becoming common place. Big red buttons? The State of the Thunder? The next 14 months are as critical a time for Oklahoma City as any franchise in any sport has experienced in the last decade. Either it works out, the Thunder get to keep two of the NBA’s six best players for another half decade at least, or one of the NBA’s smallest markets goes back to the drawing board. These are the stakes.

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