James Harden before tonight's game: "I'm gonna score a ton of points. Ya hear me?"

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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Roll Call: Toon Army Sun, SteveNash, QuantumPhysicist, djturbolence, atkammoh, East Bay Ray, Airwave, sidepart, jc79, Omaha Sun, ryansunsfan, trebski, Spit_Fire, modernage13, nashtyish, STUPID KERR, raxado, brian13, phxpurple, Beavis 25, KnowGood, PhoenixSons, twitte07, The Solution, MMotherwell, jatrex4suns, wedge1039, Antwuan, Juac, sun-arc, u_must_chill, Ataraa, Colton Dodson, JoeWisco, lee4, KC_Suns_Fan, ThatOtherCanadianKid, Not Disclosing My Name, sonicking, ilintar, Suns R Us, NashIsBeast, Aztiramtempe, SUNS PORTUGAL, noonoo, nashran3, Ohforf, The Rising Phoenix, rainmann, Chafid Ahmad, N8lol, suns68, Jim Coughenour, Snowbird, WaveOcean, theokiedoke, nash4primeminister, ArizonaCactus, Suns2flyy, PatrickPetersonAZ, ZillaRock, Piotr Szczesniak, Skii, Bostonian Suns Fan, hcblankscreen, SmokinKieff, PHXSunsRunNGun, Fritzy, AZBengal18, haremoor, flagsuns, 2NASHTY, blanke, SS21, shawndy, blank_38, grego85, TheRza82
Total Users: 77
Total Posts: 2132
Total Threads: 2

Name # of Posts
modernage13 247
PhoenixSons 190
Omaha Sun 168
phxpurple 167
MMotherwell 117
The Solution 111
atkammoh 78
nashran3 73
raxado 64
Antwuan 51
rainmann 51
Beavis 25 43
WaveOcean 42
Juac 41
Suns R Us 34
Jim Coughenour 34
Colton Dodson 32
SteveNash, QuantumPhysicist 32
PHXSunsRunNGun 32
STUPID KERR 29
Airwave 24
JoeWisco 23
u_must_chill 23
brian13 23
djturbolence 23
Spit_Fire 20
sidepart 20
NashIsBeast 19
lee4 19
noonoo 18
jc79 17
blank_38 16
ThatOtherCanadianKid 15
KnowGood 15
Ohforf 14
SUNS PORTUGAL 12
East Bay Ray 12
flagsuns 12
Aztiramtempe 12
Skii 10
nashtyish 9
haremoor 9
Suns2flyy 9
sonicking 8
SS21 8
jatrex4suns 8
wedge1039 7
shawndy 6
twitte07 6
Toon Army Sun 6
Ataraa 5
suns68 5
theokiedoke 4
N8lol 4
blanke 4
Piotr Szczesniak 4
TheRza82 4
ryansunsfan 4
2NASHTY 3
hcblankscreen 3
ilintar 3
Chafid Ahmad 3
Not Disclosing My Name 3
Snowbird 3
nash4primeminister 3
grego85 2
The Rising Phoenix 2
SmokinKieff 2
KC_Suns_Fan 2
Fritzy 2
AZBengal18 2
sun-arc 1
trebski 1
PatrickPetersonAZ 1
ZillaRock 1
ArizonaCactus 1
Bostonian Suns Fan 1


Photo

25 points through the first 8 minutes of play for the Suns, 20 in the following 16 minutes. Only 6 assists for the team, 3 for Nash as Gortat struggled mightily with 2-11 shooting. That was a rough half, but the Suns are still in it, down 52-45. Still right in this one AND the Rockets lost!

Let's do this, Suns!!

Roll Call: u_must_chill, nashran3, modernage13, Fritzy, phxpurple, djturbolence, AZBengal18, jatrex4suns, MMotherwell, wedge1039, suns68, haremoor, NashIsBeast, lee4, Omaha Sun, Suns R Us, flagsuns, 2NASHTY, East Bay Ray, blanke, Antwuan, brian13, Juac, The Solution, Colton Dodson, SS21, atkammoh, noonoo, KnowGood, Suns2flyy, SUNS PORTUGAL, PHXSunsRunNGun, shawndy, rainmann, JoeWisco, PhoenixSons, Piotr Szczesniak, blank_38, KC_Suns_Fan, Airwave, raxado, grego85, WaveOcean, SteveNash, QuantumPhysicist, TheRza82, sonicking, ThatOtherCanadianKid, twitte07, STUPID KERR, ilintar, jc79, Spit_Fire, sidepart, Toon Army Sun
Total Users: 54
Total Posts: 910
Total Threads: 1

Name # of Posts
modernage13 116
PhoenixSons 83
phxpurple 65
atkammoh 63
The Solution 61
Omaha Sun 54
MMotherwell 50
nashran3 43
Antwuan 32
PHXSunsRunNGun 27
Juac 22
Colton Dodson 19
NashIsBeast 16
blank_38 16
brian13 16
JoeWisco 15
SteveNash, QuantumPhysicist 15
raxado 14
flagsuns 12
Suns R Us 12
lee4 12
KnowGood 11
Airwave 10
haremoor 9
WaveOcean 9
rainmann 8
noonoo 8
SS21 8
STUPID KERR 7
SUNS PORTUGAL 7
East Bay Ray 6
shawndy 6
jc79 6
djturbolence 5
TheRza82 4
blanke 4
jatrex4suns 4
ThatOtherCanadianKid 3
suns68 3
Piotr Szczesniak 3
wedge1039 3
2NASHTY 3
twitte07 3
ilintar 2
sidepart 2
Suns2flyy 2
AZBengal18 2
Fritzy 2
grego85 2
Toon Army Sun 1
Spit_Fire 1
sonicking 1
KC_Suns_Fan 1
u_must_chill 1


You ready for this game, Suns fans? Steve looks like he's ready to bite someone!




Photo

On the surface, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a clearly superior team to the Phoenix Suns. Currently #2 in the Western Conference, 1/2 game behind the Spurs for #1 with a 44-17 record, the Thunder defeated the Suns by 10 on New Year's Eve and then by 11 last month. Kevin Durant is a league MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook averages over 24PPG and the Thunder have the #1 offensive rating in the league.

But these teams aren't so mismatched when we look at how they've been playing recently. Chew on this, Suns fans: Phoenix has a better record since the All-Star break (18-9) than the Thunder do (17-10). At what point does the sample size become large enough to say that the Suns are a legitimately good team? A win tonight would certainly go a long way to proving the Suns belong as a playoff team, and that they might be one the contenders won't want to face.

US Airways Center had better be rocking tonight because the Suns have played so well over the last couple of months that they've earned this critically meaningful game in mid-April. All five teams remaining on the Suns schedule have winning records and two of them are championship contenders, but the Suns are capable of beating each of them, and it starts with this test tonight.



Of course, there is danger in thin-slicing results too much. When the Suns and Thunder last met March 7th in OKC, the Suns led 84-68 midway through the third quarter before an epic Suns collapse/Thunder run clinched a 115-104 Thunder win. As Alex explained in his recap:

The Suns built the lead back up in the third quarter to a full 16 points - an 84-68 lead! - before the wheels came off and the Thunder came to life, finishing the game on a 47-20 run. Phoenix countered MVP-candidate Kevin Durant and Sixth-Man candidate James Harden with the likes of Sebastian Telfair and Michael Redd. Ugh. Double ugh. How do the Suns expect to win with that matchup going on???

A six-point Suns 4th-quarter lead turned into an 8-point Thunder lead in the blink of an eye. Poof. The Suns chances were gone. All it took was a few minutes of Durant/Harden vs. Telfair/Redd.

What to take from that game? The big lead earned early, or the late collapse? Both, of course, and an explosive team like the Thunder will have runs in it. And it wasn't just the Suns defense that was the problem, as their offense went completely stagnant down the stretch when they simply couldn't make a shot.

Key for the Suns tonight will be to stem the tide if/when the Thunder start sizzling. Slow down the pace on offense and get good shots, take it inside and draw fouls. The Thunder will score a lot, there's probably no getting around that. It will be up to the Suns to execute smoothly on offense down the stretch and make key stops on the defensive end. They will probably have to do this without the services of Grant Hill:

Alvin Gentry said Grant Hill (sore right knee) probably will not play tonight in hopes he'll play Thursday vs. the Clippers.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) April 18, 2012

Apparently, the Suns would rather rest Hill tonight and let other players, primarily Dudley and Childress, deal with Durant, and have Hill back to guard Chris Paul tomorrow night. Note that the Suns struggled mightily with Hill out due to foul trouble in the previous meeting, so this is definitely cause for concern. They'll have to avoid Durant badly exploiting mismatches as he did in March.

In happier news:

OKC Coach Scott Brooks said Alvin Gentry is his pick for NBA Coach of the Year.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) April 18, 2012

It will be interesting to see what kind of support Gentry gets for COY. On the one hand, will voters give much consideration to a coach of a slightly above average, fringe playoff team? But then, all of these NBA "experts" who have been bloviating all season about how the Suns were a terrible team have to give credit for the coach who turned them around, right? A playoff berth would help his cause, that's for sure.

Get fired up for this one, Suns fans! This would be a landmark win for this season's Suns.

For more exclusive content, follow us on Twitter @Brightsidesun and "Like" us on Facebook.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Kevin Durant 61 38.4 9.7 19.4 50.1 1.9 5.2 37.5 6.3 7.4 85.2 0.6 7.2 7.9 3.5 3.7 1.4 1.2 2.0 27.8
Russell Westbrook 61 35.4 9.0 19.3 46.4 1.0 3.0 32.8 5.1 6.2 82.2 1.4 3.1 4.5 5.4 3.7 1.7 0.2 2.2 24.1
James Harden 59 31.6 4.8 10.1 48.2 1.8 4.7 38.4 4.9 5.9 83.7 0.5 3.6 4.1 3.7 2.2 0.9 0.3 2.5 16.4
Serge Ibaka 61 27.0 3.8 7.2 52.9 0.0 0.0 100.0 1.2 1.9 67.3 3.0 4.7 7.7 0.4 1.2 0.5 3.6 2.7 8.9
Derek Fisher 58 24.2 2.0 5.5 36.7 0.6 1.7 32.7 0.9 1.1 83.6 0.2 1.8 1.9 2.8 1.2 0.8 0.1 1.9 5.5
Daequan Cook 52 17.6 1.9 5.2 36.2 1.4 4.1 33.6 0.2 0.3 62.5 0.2 2.0 2.2 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.2 1.2 5.3
Thabo Sefolosha 37 21.0 1.6 3.7 44.2 0.8 1.6 45.9 0.9 1.0 89.5 0.5 2.4 2.9 1.0 0.8 0.9 0.4 1.8 5.0
Kendrick Perkins 60 26.7 1.9 3.9 48.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.8 64.2 1.8 4.7 6.5 1.2 1.8 0.4 1.1 2.9 4.9
Nick Collison 58 20.6 1.9 3.2 60.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 0.9 69.1 1.8 2.6 4.4 1.3 1.0 0.5 0.4 2.4 4.5
Eric Maynor 9 15.1 1.6 4.3 35.9 0.7 1.9 35.3 0.4 0.4 100.0 0.3 1.1 1.4 2.4 1.2 0.6 0.0 1.4 4.2
Reggie Jackson 45 11.1 1.1 3.5 32.1 0.3 1.4 21.0 0.6 0.6 86.2 0.3 0.9 1.2 1.6 0.8 0.6 0.0 0.7 3.1
Nazr Mohammed 58 11.1 1.3 2.8 46.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 56.5 0.9 1.8 2.7 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.6 1.6 2.8
Royal Ivey 31 10.6 0.8 2.1 37.9 0.6 1.6 36.7 0.0 0.3 12.5 0.0 0.7 0.7 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.0 1.0 2.2
Cole Aldrich 25 6.3 0.8 1.6 52.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.4 90.0 0.5 1.3 1.8 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.6 0.7 2.0
Lazar Hayward 25 5.4 0.5 1.5 34.2 0.2 0.6 28.6 0.3 0.5 58.3 0.1 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.7 1.5


"Hey guys!  Enjoy some links and stuff!".

Is the title too corny? Anyways - Did you have time today to scour the vast wilderness of the internet to find the best Phoenix Suns-pertinent news? No? Oh well no worries - I got your back.

Jump for important stuff like what Channing Frye had for breakfast yesterday. What did you have for breakfast?

Matts big breakfast. So legit instagr.am/p/Jh5gvPrXdE/

— Channing Frye (@Channing_Frye) April 17, 2012

Let's get into it -

From our Own SBNation homies -

Enormous Consequences: Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets Hoping To Make Moves - From Our Editors - SBNation.com
The NBA Playoff picture could be cleared up on Wednesday night if the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns both suffer losses, hence the "enormous consequences."

Steve Nash, Stepping Back And The Brilliance That's Hard To Understand - SBNation.com
Nash has always been a play ahead of everyone on the court. This season, as his role has started to diminish with age, his on-court intelligence and off-court demeanor has kept him and his team going strong. I may not be able to understand why he makes it work, but I sure as hell will be rooting for him to keep it going in the playoffs.

Phoenix Suns vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Pre-Game Chat - Bright Side Of The Sun
Ray: Over the last 10 games, the Thunder are only 5-5. While the losses have been to quality opponents (Clippers twice, Pacers, Heat and Grizzlies), are there any weaknesses they've exposed among the Thunder that particularly concern you?

Zorgon: Yes, there has been a lot of concern. Thunder fans are (or should be) noted as eternal optimists, always seeing the silver lining in every cloud. But with these recent losses, I've seen the same guys who were really excited about our 23 win season start having musings about our ability to finish well in the playoffs. The main problem I see is perfectly highlighted by what happened against the Clippers last night. Over the last couple of years, our offense has regressed to a 2-4 man game. Guys like Collison, Sefolosha, and Perkins don't even have plays drawn up for them anymore....

CLICK THE LINK FOR MORE FROM THIS CONVO!

NBA Western Conference Playoff Standings Update: Suns Still In Eighth Place! - Bright Side Of The Sun
The Suns are still the No. 8 seed after a quiet Tuesday for the teams at the bottom of the Western Conference playoffs.

Thunder vs. Suns: The Young Stars vs. The Ragtag Gang of Old Men (2011-2012 Game 62 Preview) - Welcome to Loud City
5-5 over the past 10 games. The record stings, doesn't it? If the Thunder would have merely won one of their past 5 games against playoff teams, they would be the number one seed right now. Tonight, they get a chance to redeem themselves against a borderline playoff team that has gone 20-10 over the past 30 games: the Phoenix Suns.

Some Suns-related News from other places around the web

Houston Rockets' fizzle helps hot Phoenix Suns
The Suns have won seven of their past 10 games to get above that bold, black line in the Western Conference standings.

Phoenix Suns to add John MacLeod to their Ring of Honor
Young: MacLeod brought class, grace, and a professorial knowledge of the game to more than 13 seasons on the Suns bench.

SUNS-THUNDER GAME PREVIEW: APRIL 18 | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE PHOENIX SUNS
"People had us for dead beginning of the season, middle of the season, All-Star break," forward Jared Dudley said. "And we've worked our butts off, we've played through it, guys have learned their roles and I think we're ready to do it."

Would win restore Phoenix Suns fans' thunder?
The Suns are trying. Is anyone buying? At the All-Star break, they were a sorry lot. Their coach was muttering under his breath, cussing in postgame news conferences. The organization seemed lost in a credibility crisis.

San Antonio Spurs maintain top spot in NBA Power Rankings - Britt Robson - SI.com
The Suns are 7-3 in April and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today after entering the All-Star break with a 14-20 record. Such a dramatic reversal requires improvement from multiple players, and one of the recent unsung heroes is backup point guard Sebastian Telfair.

NBA Playoff Tiebreaker System | Fanster.com - All Sports. All Phoenix.
As this is being typed, there are five teams with three games of each other for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference. It’s not unlikely that two or more of the teams vying for a playoff berth end up with identical records when the final whistle is blown this season.

Suns must face harsh reality of rebuilding | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University

Nash deserves the opportunity to win the NBA championship, and Suns fans deserve to see their team back in deep playoff series.

Sports Radio Interviews " Blog Archive " Steve Nash: "It’s going to be a big project for me to really get to the bottom of what is the best thing for me."

Steve Nash joined KTAR in Phoenix with Burns and Gambo to discuss what the Phoenix Suns need to do in order to keep him next year, family playing a factor in his free agency decision, how close the Phoenix Suns are from being the team he wants to stay with in the future, recruiting free agents to play in Phoenix and taking less money to sign with a contender that can win an NBA championship.

VOTE NOW FOR 2012 MAJERLE HUSTLE AWARD | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE PHOENIX SUNS

Suns fans once again have an opportunity to help select the winner of the Dan Majerle Hustle Award by casting their vote on Suns.com/hustle. Fan balloting is open now through Tuesday, April 24 at 5 p.m.

AND just for kicks and giggles - Suckers he he.

Jim Buss of Los Angeles Lakers says new CBA cuts heavily into team's profits - ESPN Los Angeles
The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, as well as the new revenue-sharing arrangement amongst the league's 30 teams, has drastically changed things for the Lakers, according to Jim Buss.

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