A first half ejection for Russell Westbrook and 256 regulation points ended with the Oklahoma City Thunder escaping with an intense overtime victory over the Suns,
Right from the start, this one had a completely different feel than the last dreadful matchup with the Thunder. The Suns clearly had no intentions of being swept away from the opening tip, and came out swinging. Markieff Morris scored the first 8 Suns points, and the entire first half was played at a feverish pitch with both teams throwing haymakers at eachother.
As the half came to a close, the players nearly made this a literal statement, as Alex Len and Russell Westbrook got into a scuffle that almost led to blows. Len received a Flagrant-1, while Westbrook was charged with a technical foul.
Russell Westbook celebrated NYE by fighting with Alex Len, being ejected. (via @Steve_OS) http://t.co/E5GmHqweSp https://t.co/CiRGtW9ReD
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 1, 2015
Shortly following the skirmish with Len, Westbrook hit a layup and was fouled on the play, at which point he seemed to bark a few words at the Suns' bench. The refs noticed, and he was hit with a second technical and sent to the showers.
With as high-scoring as the first half was (both teams over 60 points) and without Westbrook, the Suns surely should have capitalized. Unfortunately, the chippy first half led to a closely officiated 3rd quarter that killed the tempo that the Suns had thrived on. While the high scoring continued, the pace slowed to a crawl.
The Suns eventually were lulled to sleep, while the Thunder were catching a second wind that led to a 10-point lead in the fourth. They hung tough on the back of Eric Bledsoe even though the whistles continued, and after some clutch buckets by the Morris twins (and a few clutch mistakes by the Suns) they managed to force overtime after tying in regulation at 128-128.
In the end there was too much Kevin Durant and not enough crucial possessions that went the Suns' way. Durant ended the night with 44 points (12-12 from the FT line). Bledsoe led the way for the Suns with 29 points and 8 assists, the Morris twins chipped in 43 points on 23 shots.
A disappointing finish for the Suns, but they battled all the way after playing the previous night. Give our boys a hand for this one.
- I'm already 3 beers and a shot of Remy in. Apologies if this recap is rubbish
- Shotclock violation on Thunder's first possession. Good omen, perhaps?
- Kieff responds with a 3 despite Ibaka being all up in his draws
- Another 3 for Kieff ... well ok, then
- Offensive foul on Adams, 6-2 Suns. Already a 1000 times better than the last game in OKC
- Kieff hits the iso 2, is outscoring the Thunder 8-2
- Where has Bledsoe's midrange jumper gone? Can I blame Isaiah Thomas for this? Check his pockets ASAP
- Can someone give me the lowdown on Andre Roberson? For starters, who the hell is he and how is he starting for a contender?
- Westbrook hits a 3 and does his lame-ass holster thing
- OKC storms back on a fastbreak layup from Roberson. 17-13 Thunder
- Kieff gets his second foul for an unintentional elbow to Durant's face. No bueno
- Gerald Green dribbles into a corner already occupied by P.J. Tucker. Silly turnover
- But then he drills a corner 3 with 2 guys chasing him. Oh, Gerald
- Tucker decides not to defer to Dragic and runs the offense himself. What? Result: Airball 3PA from Marcus
- Goodness gracious, Gerald. It's insane how many 10/10 degree of difficulty shots he makes. Some might opine that he shouldn't attempt them, but where's the fun in that?
- OKC is willing to play up-tempo with the Suns. This is what cost the Thunder 2 out of 3 games last year
- What is the point of playing Kendrick Perkins when there isn't a low-post scorer for him to defend?
- A big game by IT would be awesome right about now
- Suns going zone. Has Hornacek gone zone before? Must've been all those freethrows they surrendered in the last game vs. OKC
- Mook drills a corner 3 as the 1st quarter expires, Suns trail 29-30. This is their kind of game, though
- Yeah, let's let Durant go backdoor unabated
- IT loses the ball whilst overdribbling. They don't need help, guys. Seriously
- Suns spread out and attack the paint, Bled draws FT's. Shades of last year
- If Green comes up with a rebound or loose ball, he is going to take the ball up himself and shoot EVERY TIME. Draws FT's, though
- Durant yawns and drills a stepback 21-footer. 38-32 OKC
- Perry Jones follows his own miss, no Suns player challenges
- IT looks all sorts of dysfunctional out there. Bledsoe takes over and delivers to Plumlee for a dunk
- Mook is a damn flamethrower out there. 14 points on 6/7, plus a little holiday banter with Durant. Oh those Morris twins. 45-43 OKC
- Len decides that the best way to stop Westbrook on the dribble is just to grab and envelop him. Unfortunately, that is against NBA rules
- IT with a delicious hockey assist to Bled that led to a dunk by Len. He's a hell of a passer, even if he isn't particularly enthralled with the concept
- Ibaka bricks 2 straight 3's from straightaway. Keep shooting, Serge!
- Thunder getting to every 50/50 rebound, still only lead by 1
- I'll sacrifice a limb if I never have to see Russell Westbrook shooting FT's again. A pinky toe counts as a limb, right?
- Bledsoe with a ridiculous assist for a Tucker 3, Suns ahead 54-53!
- Bled with a pick-6. If that was an actual stat, he'd have to be top-5 in the NBA
- Suns defense still in the zone, Thunder look considerably less explosive because of it
- Bled muscles in a layup, Suns lead 58-53
- Durant is throwing rocks tonight. Drills from 3 again, 61-60 Suns
- After a loose-ball foul on Ibaka, Bledsoe had some choice words for the big man
- A melee has broken loose! A scrum, a skirmish, a brewhaha!
- Ok, so Westbrook drove on Len, Len blocked the layup and corralled the ball, Russ held onto the ball and was swung around by Len, and the two looked to kind of swipe at eachother as Russ fell to the ground. Tempers definitely flared, nothing more than that, but of course we have to consult Secaucus, NJ on this
- Flagrant-1 for Len, technical foul on Westbrook. Ok, whatever
- Suns still lead by 1 after all that. 62-61
- WESTBROOK GOT TOSSED??
- Ok separate incident ... Westbrook drove in for an and-1, and according to the officials he circled around and yelled at the Suns' bench in celebration, although he claims he was directing his behavior to the crowd. 2nd tech in a row, automatic ejection. Looked to me like he was yelling at Len, and Len's reaction seems to verify this
- Of course, Kieff also got a technical at some point. Because there is no way that technicals get handed out willy-nilly without Kieff getting one
- I'm not gonna lie, I absolutely love that Westbrook was tossed for taunting. If taunting is indeed an infraction worthy of ejection, this dude should be tossed from at least half his games
- Oh, the actual game. It's 64-62 Thunder. Easily the most entertaining first half of the season thus far
- Suns should be favored to win this game at this point without Russface in the equation
- Kieff starts the second half the same way as the first -- drilling a tough jumper
- Len picks up his fourth foul less than a minute in, and dunks a dead ball that results in a delay of game penalty and a freethrow for the Thunder. No bueno
- Dragic steals a jump ball and turns it into a breakaway layup. Dragon things. Tied at 67
- Tucker joins the technical party for arguing a foul on Durant. Hornacek quickly calls a timeout. Chill them fools out, Jeff
- Less than 2 minutes in, and the Thunder have scored 2 free points on Len's delay of game and Tucker's T
- Bledstuff on a Reggie Jackson layup attempt
- Alex Len picks up his 5th foul on an Adams and-1, and we're only at the 8:30 mark of the 3rd quarter. Well that sucks. Hornacek finally puts in Plumlee
- Kieff called for a highly questionable pushoff on Ibaka. I really hope the refs don't intend to make up for the Russ ejection with crap calls like that
- Bledsoe torches Adams for an And-1. 75-73 Thunder
- A steal and 2 FT's by Tucker tie it at 75
- Letting anyone not named Durant fire away from 3 might be a winning strategy. Roberson and Jackson are lobbing medicine balls. Morrow is usually money, but not tonight
- BS foul away from the ball on Roberson. We'll take it. 83-81 Suns
- Ish Smith sighting!
- What a pickpocket by Tucker on Durant! Leads to a cherry-pick layup from Kieff
- Ibaka responds with a 3. 89-85 OKC
- I hate to say this, but Dragic needs to start flapping his arms like a chicken after he attempts a layup in traffic. Apparently that's the only way to get calls in the NBA
- IT fires a 50-foot pass off the inbound to Bledsoe in the corner, who had his hands on his knees and was obviously not paying attention. Facepalm
- Refs are taking the game over. Both teams whistled for contact away from the ball on consecutive possessions. This is why we can't have nice things
- Bledsoe with a slashing layup following an airball by Jackson. 95-92 Thunder
- 19 fouls called in the 3rd quarter. Suddenly this is not the Suns' preferred style of game
- Durant drills from 28 feet as the quarter expires. 100-94
- Perry Jones streaks in for a layup off another bad turnover by IT. 106-98
- Ish Smith with a driving dunk. I had to rewind that to believe it
- Dreadful defense by the Suns results in another driving score by Ish. No Suns player was close enough to even wave goodbye to that one. 110-101 Thunder
- Ish is getting ORebs now. The Suns' energy is gone
- Suns were desperate for a spark, Green and Kieff respond with 5 quick points. 112-108 Thunder
- Thunder have limited the Suns to 0-3 from 3 in the second half, after giving up 11/17 in the first
- I don't care how you defend a Durant pick-and-roll, just don't leave him open in the corner, please. 115-108, Thunder
- Bledsoe receives a technical after drilling a 3. I don't know if the Suns are being egregiously stupid, or if the refs are just that determined to make their presence known after the events of the first half. Either way, it is killing the Suns
- Suns are still kicking. Bledsoe and-1 keeps the Suns close at 116-120 with 4:30 left
- Suns have been called for a technical and two loose-ball fouls in the last minute. Bogdan make it stop
- Bled putting the team on his back, scores his 28th point
- Dragic scores in transition to pull the Suns within 2, 122-120
- Crazy tussle for a loose ball, Tucker goes sliding across the floor to save a possession, Ibaka is bleeding from his eyebrow ... pandemonium in OKC
- Dragic called for his 5th foul on a drive by Morrow. I'm not saying it wasn't a foul, I'm just saying that the refs are calling E-VER-Y-THING in this half
- Mook drills a J in Durant's face to tie the game at 123, 2:30 left
- Mook swats a shot by Adams to force a 24-second violation, then heads screaming back to the bench. I get the feeling that every player on the court would chew off their own hand to win this game. Soooo much pride at stake here
- KIEFF FROM 3, 126-123 SUNS
- Dragic with a bad turnover in transition, leads to a Durant 3. Bledsoe responds with a pair of wild shots, Jackson gets fouled in transition, 128-126 Thunder. Time out, Phoenix
- That Dragic turnover was critical. Could've added to a 3 point lead, instead OKC tied it on the other end and now sit in the driver's seat
- Kieff takes it right to Serge off a Bledsoe assist and hits a tough layup, tied at 128, 34 seconds left. Contact on the play, but for once the refs swallowed their whistles. Holy Bogdan, what a game
- After a miss by Jackson from 3, Bledsoe tosses up an off-balance shot that never had a chance. With no time-outs at their disposal, the whole team looked unsure of what to do. 1.3 seconds left for OKC, Crunch-time mistakes have been glaring
- Morrow misses at the buzzer, overtime on NYE!
- Durant and Mook trade misses. Both really want to show the other one up
- Durant called for the offensive foul, elbowing Tucker in the coconut
- Both teams suddenly cold, Kieff bricks from 15
- Durant flaps his arms like a chicken after Tucker knocks the ball loose, gets call of course
- Mook barges inside for the foul, tied at 130
- TRAVELING ON DURANT OH MY BOGDAN
4-point play by Anthony Morrow from the corner. I'll put my caps lock away now...
- Mook fouls out on the play, Green in
- Bodies crash to the ground for a loose ball, foul on Suns. Because of course
- Durant gets his 44th points from the freethrow line. When loose balls end in Kevin Durant freethrows in the clutch, it might not be your night
- WHAT WAS THAT?? Bledsoe with a layup, then a steal by Tucker, and then Tucker crams down the missed transition layup! 136-134 Thunder
- Ibaka misses, Suns rebound, Hornacek wisely calls time. 24 seconds left...
- Ugh ... Green gets just barely free for a layup that rims off
- Reviewing on the out of bounds call ... 9 seconds left
- Suns ball!
- Bledsoe gives up a possible layup attempt to swing it outside to Kieff for the win ... no dice
- Roberson seals it with a freethrow, no shame in the Suns tonight
- I'm gonna get drunk now. Happy 2015, everybody!