I am sensing a trend - that top teams are not starting the game prepared to play their best basketball against the Suns. The Thunder came out slow. Just a half-second slow on every play. And finally, the Suns took advantage in the first half. They jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first quarter, wiggle-waggled for bit before getting the lead back to 14 a couple of times in the second quarter before letting it get down to 6 points at halftime on another score in the paint with 1.4 second left in the half.
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.
The Thunder rolled hard in this game. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook each had at least 30 points, while Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 20 rebounds. They took 75 of the Thunder's 91 shots in the game.
On the other side, Nash had 4 points and 0 assists in the second half and Grant Hill was most effective on behalf of the Thunder by getting into foul trouble. Ugh. At least Dudley (17 and 11) and Gortat (28 and 11) had good games.
The Suns opened the game on a tear, while the Thunder looked like they were stuck in mud. On nearly every play, the Suns got to the spot a half-second faster than the Thunder. Perkins picked up 2 early fouls. Durant picked up 2 early fouls as well. And on the other end the Suns were grabbing rebounds and altering shots, leaving the Thunder with only 1 free throw until late in the first quarter. Nash had 7 early assists and Gortat scored 12 points against the bigger, more aggressive front line of the Thunder.
The late-first subs let the early 15-point lead get down to 9. James Harden was a beast, getting 9 points on only 3 shot attempts late in the first quarter (2 3-ptrs plus an and-one dunk), exactly as he always scores. Thankfully, Shannon Brown leaked out a couple times for fast-break dunks, helping the Suns push the lead back to 14 before the Thunder again pushed back a little. The Thunder brought their starters back earlier than the Suns did, which seems par for the course for Suns opponents lately.
Russell Westbrook, as one of the few Thunder with energy, played a whole lot of minutes in the first half in an attempt to cut the Suns lead.
I have a question for you all: has a player with a shot as smooth and pretty-looking as Michael Redd's ever missed so many open jumpers before? Unbelievable. He was 0-5 in the second half.
And is Sebastian Telfair the worst backup point guard in the NBA?
Steve Nash was amazing with 13 first-half assists and 8 points. Unfortunately, his second half was a goose egg on assists, mostly because the Suns missed most of their shots. And Grant Hill couldn't stay on the floor. When that happens, the Suns lose.
The Suns jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter, wiggle-waggled for bit before getting the lead back to 14 a couple of times in the second before letting it get down to 6 points at half.
Here's hoping the Suns break through those thunder clouds to put a sunny smile on our faces!
(is that cheesy enough?)
Hit up Paul Coro's Orange Slices for some extra preview action
"The big thing for us is that we have to try to get back and get them in half-court offense," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Not that they're not a great half-court offensive team. But they're probably the best team in the league when they're getting out and running in transition. They've got so many guys who can handle it. When you mix in that they've got shooters spotted up all over the floor, it makes it very difficult."
The West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder have been rolling along to the tune of a 13-game home winning streak. 13 games is a long streak. The Phoenix Suns have to bank on the law of averages. No one goes undefeated. Every team throws up a stinker once in a while. Let's hope that stinker happens to occur tonight, on the part of OKC.
Otherwise, the Suns are fighting a major uphill battle. Oklahoma City is the best team in the Western Conference, running on all cylinders. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden dominate the game.
How can the Suns win? If Marcin Gortat outplays Kendrick Perkins, Robin Lopez outplays Nick Collison, Steve Nash outplays Russell Westbrook, and Grant Hill holds Kevin Durant below his averages, then... maybe the Suns can withstand the other guys who will step up in their places. Oy.
Check out the Thunder stats:
This is a very good Thunder team playing at home. Tough game.
The Suns have to play hard and focused for all 48 minutes.