A heavyweight battle. Playoff worthy. In fact, potentially a preview of the playoffs that will start in a couple of weeks. The Phoenix Suns beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, and now have won 2 of 3 on the season from OKC despite Kevin Durant setting a scoring mark.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns made big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter. The Suns had a 3-point lead with four minutes to go on a P.J. Tucker three, but Westbrook hit a contested three and Durant hit a contested baseline jumper to take the lead 110-108.
But the Suns came back this time, unlike last Wednesday, with their heart and grit. They pulled this game out of the Thunder's hands. No one gave it to them.
With the win, the Suns have pulled to 8th position in the West all by themselves, after the Grizzlies lost to San Antonio earlier tonight.
The Suns are now 18-0 when Goran Dragic (26) and Eric Bledsoe (18) score 16+ points. Markieff Morris was big down the stretch with several tough makes in the post. Gerald Green had 24 big points, including 5-7 on three pointers.
P.J. Tucker played his best game in a long time, with 22 points including 4-5 on threes and some tough plays under the hoop. And despite Durant getting 38 points, P.J. was able to defend Durant one-on-one just enough that the Suns could play honest on everyone else and win the game.
Let's Go Suns!!
The Suns didn't make it easy on themselves. They had gotten themselves into the penalty - going to the free throw line with every Thunder foul - at the 9 minute mark but stopped forcing the issue and settled for jumpers too much. The Suns didn't draw more free throws until Dragic drew a back court foul with three minutes left.
This was gut check time. When the Thunder took the 110-108 lead with four minutes left, the game felt a lot like last Wednesday's game against the Clippers. In that game, the Suns had a 17-point lead late in the third quarter, only to lose the game by four.
Tonight, the Suns had a 14-point lead late in the third before the Thunder came back to even the score and take the lead with more than five minutes left.
But this time the Suns had enough to finish the job. They played hard, so hard you could cut diamonds. When Eric Bledsoe stole the ball and P.J. Tucker drew the foul to widen the lead to five, the Suns were cheering harder than anyone in the building.
That's two wins in the last month over the Thunder, folks.
The Suns needed to dig deep to win the game despite Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant turning into scoring machines. Durant and Westbrook had 68 points between them.
The Suns didn't help themselves by going 11-20 from the line, and drawing only two free throws from the 9 minute mark to the 1 minute mark.
This time, the Suns had enough to finish the job. What a game!
The game started really well for the Suns, except for Channing Frye missing three straight open threes. Still, the Suns led 14-13 before he sat down for Markieff Morris. Miles Plumlee was active early, with 6 points and 5 rebounds in the first 5 minutes against Kendrick Perkins.
Soon, the Suns sat Frye and the Thunder sat Perkins and the game ramped up even more. We may not see Perkins again tonight, except maybe a cameo to start the third quarter.
Durant played the whole first quarter for OKC, but didn't score after stating with 7 quick points except for going 1-2 at the free throw line.
Goran Dragic did not score until the second quarter, when the Suns already had a 30-27 lead. The Thunder went really small in the second quarter, playing Caron Butler as the second-biggest guy out there with Nick Collison. The only guy taller than 6'8" was Collison. The Suns went small as well, but "Suns small" is a lot bigger than the Thunder's. The Suns went with Dragic, Green, Morris, Morris and Randolph. The only guy shorter than 6'8" was Dragic.
The Suns kept a strong lead through first half of the second quarter, but missed on two easy alley-oop opportunities in the first 18 minutes - one by Plumlee, the other by Green. The lead could have been more than 6 with 5:30 to go in the half.
The Goran Dragic happened. Dragic made 7 straight shots at one point on a variety of drives, midrange shots and long range shots to finish with 16 in the second quarter alone.
The Suns halftime lead was 9 points, 62-53, despite Eric Bledsoe having turnover issues trying to be too aggressive at the end of the quarter.
In the third quarter, the Suns came out strong and extended the lead to 14 behind Gerald Green pouring in 8 points in the first 5 minutes of the quarter.
But then Russell Westbrook started driving relentlessly to the rim and the Thunder cut the lead to 5 before Dragic and Bledsoe got their own scores at the rim.
The Thunder kept coming though, scoring 38 points in the third quarter alone (after scoring only 53 in the first half), and took a one-point lead early in the fourth.
The Suns got into desperation mode then, forcing the Thunder to put them in the penalty with 9 minutes left, while the Thunder just kept making shots over and over again.
The Suns made big shots too, including a Tucker three to get the lead back at 108-105.