It was a potential playoff preview between the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder. But without Grant Hill to take on some of the defensive workload, the Suns couldn't contain Kevin Durant AND Russell Westbrook AND James Harden.
Of course, it was James that went off and in his postgame comments agreed that playing well in Phoenix was special for him. Here's video with James, along with Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat talking about the loss.
Game highlights after the jump.
The Phoenix Suns failed to hold their tenuous grip on the Western Conference's eight position, losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden provided the difference with a career-high 40 points, changing the momentum of the game from the moment he entered with 5:03 remaining in the first quarter and the Suns holding a 21-11 lead as the Thunder charged to a 109-97 win in Phoenix.
Jared Dudley led the Suns with 21 points and 6 rebounds, but Marcin Gortat struggled through 2-13 shooting, a primary cause for Steve Nash dishing only 5 assists. The bread and butter of the offense, the pick and roll, wasn't working well tonight and the Suns ended up starving as a result, shooting 41% from the field and sputtering through the game after a fast start.
Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook was held more or less in check with 15 points, Durant seemed to be having a quiet night until you looked up to see he had 29. But Harden played like a superstar, as he also gathered 7 rebounds to go with 3 assists and his prodigious scoring, and the Thunder were +26 with him on the floor. He controlled the game with his deadly accurate shooting, dribble-drives and playmaking.
The Suns were able to hang in the game until early in the fourth, climbing to within a point at 73-72 with 2:21 left in the third. Then the Thunder started the fourth with a 16-7 run to bury the Suns for good at 98-84 with 8:00 remaining, and Phoenix got no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
With the win, the Thunder swept the season series from the Suns, winning each of the three contests by double digits. OKC also remained 1/2 behind San Antonio for the #1 seed in the West with a 45-17 record. Phoenix dropped to 9th in the West with the loss and Utah's thrashing of the Trailblazers.
Too much James Harden tonight, and the Suns had no answer. No time to hang their heads, though. Tomorrow night, the Clippers roll into town in a game that will be televised nationally on TNT.
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