The Suns and the Thunder must have had different game plans coming into tonight's game. Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry made it very clear he was going to limit the starters tonight so he could take a longer look at some of the rookies and training camp invitees hoping to make the final roster. That's exactly what he did.

Scott Brooks initially stated he would limit the playing time of his starters as well. However, the 18K plus, sold out crowd in Tulsa who anxiously awaited their rare chance to catch a glimpse of the home team may have changed his mind.

Although the Thunder currently have 19 players on their roster, Brooks cut the rotation down to only 10 tonight. While James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Perry Jones, and Daniel Orton were all legitimately injured, Scott Brooks still opted to DNP four other reserves in favor of playing the starters more minutes.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka all played 28 minutes a piece, including a long stretch of the 3rd quarter when the Thunder finally started to pull away against the Suns' back-ups.

Before that, it was a tightly contested game throughout the entire first half, despite the Suns starters playing between only 6-12 minutes a piece, save for Michael Beasley who played for 19.

As a whole, the Suns and Thunder both shot 49.4% from the field, while the Suns actually shot a higher percentage from three at 50% going 5-10, compared to the Thunder who shot 45%, but made 9-20.

The Suns started out allowing too many offensive rebounds which the Thunder capitalized on at the beginning. This eventually evened itself out throughout the duration of the game, but the Thunder still rebounded the ball a total of 41 times including 15 offensive rebounds, compared to 31 total and 11 offensive rebounds for the Suns.

Although it wasn't a huge disparity, the rebounds and additional three point baskets for the Thunder ended up being the difference in the game.

The Starters:

Goran Dragic played only seven minutes, all in the first quarter, and had a rough start to the game committing two quick turnovers and two personal fouls as well. He still managed to punch in five points on 2-3 shooting to go along with his one and only assist before exiting the game for good. Luis Scola was even more limited, playing only six minutes all in the first quarter as well. Scola barely made the box score with his one rebound and two personal fouls before being replaced halfway through the first quarter, never to return.

Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat got a little more burn tonight each registering 12 minutes, one full quarter of play in the first. Gortat was effective scoring seven points on 3-3 shooting and going 1-2 from the line, and grabbing three rebounds during his time. Dudley however failed to make much of a mark scoring only two points on 1-3 shooting.

So what about Michael Beasley? Well, even though he was the only Sun's starter to see time in both the first and third quarters, he was only marginally effective scoring six points on 2-7 shooting from the field and 2-2 from the line. He did however manage two assists and two blocked shots as well, so he still helped out in other ways during his 19 minutes of playing time.

The Bench:

With a grand total of only 20 points from the Suns starting five who had been playing so well together, one might expect that the Suns would get blown out against the talented three-headed monster of Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka who all played substantial minutes tonight. But instead, the Suns bench stepped up tonight and kept the game close throughout most of the first half and in the start of the third quarter, even when playing against the Thunder superstars.

Led by the hot shooting of Wesley Johnson who scored 15 points on 6-13 shooting including 3-5 from three in his 28 minutes of play, many of the other reserves also stepped up and made it a close game. PJ Tucker continued to impress with 11 points and five rebounds in nearly 29 minutes. Even Luke Zeller had a fairly productive night registering eight points and four rebounds in less than 25 minutes on the floor.

Solomon Jones played his way to a double-double by registering 10 points and 10 rebounds along with two steals and one block in 17.5 minutes. Markieff Morris had a mediocre game from a scoring standpoint with only five points, but he also contributed three rebounds and three assists in his 17 minutes of play. And Dionte Garrett appeared to be the most impressive point guard of the night with his seven points and five assists in just over 15 minutes.

Ike Diogu also pitched in nine points and three rebounds in less than 10 minutes. Sebastian Telfair scored a quick seven points in just over nine minutes, and Jermaine O'Neal pitched in five points and one rebound in his eight minutes of action.

The only Suns' reserve who didn't appear to have at least a decent night was Kendall Marshall who played 24 minutes yet scored zero points, dished out only three assists, and committed two turnovers. However, he did grab five rebounds and stole the ball three times as well...so even he found a way to contribute.

The Bottom Line:

With a Suns team who's starting five had played so well thus far in the preseason, and a bench who had failed to impress, this was actually just what Alvin Gentry and the rest of the coaching staff was looking for.

It's clear that Gentry's game-plan wasn't to try to win this game as much as it was to audition the backups and get a better feel for who should see minutes, and who deserves to be on the roster.

Save for Marshall, who is a lock to make the team regardless, nearly all of the reserves and pre-season invitees rose to the challenge tonight.

With only three more preseason games remaining before the season opener on Halloween night, Gentry and company are going to have some tough decisions to make here shortly when the roster will have to be cut down from 17 to at most 15...meaning at least two of these players will have to be cut.

The Suns will certainly need to further evaluate these players over these next three games, but having too many talented players is a nice problem to have.

Alvin Gentry used a game against the well-executing Oklahoma City Thunder to test out his pieces that had something to prove. Phoenix fell to OKC 107-97 at the Bok Center on Friday, and the unusual...

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Alvin Gentry used a game against the well-executing Oklahoma City Thunder to test out his pieces that had something to prove. Phoenix fell to OKC 107-97 on Friday at the Bok Center in Tulsa, Okla.,...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

In what started out as a closely contested game in the first half slowly slipped away from the Suns in the second half as they fell behind and couldn't catch back up.

The Suns were led by the hot shooting of Wesley Johnson with 15 points on 6-13 shooting, including 3-5 from downtown. Solomon Jones also chipped in with an impressive performance of 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 steals in his 18 minutes of play.

The Thunder were led by none other than Kevin Durant who scored 22 points to go along with his 4 rebounds and 3 steals in his 28 minutes of play. Russell Westbrook also put on a clinic scoring 18 points and dishing out 12 assists in the same amount of time.

We'll have a full wrap up coming soon. For now, feel free to voice your opinion on what you saw heard down below.


Suns dropped a preseason game in OKC to the Thunder.

When: Tonight 5PM PST, 8PM PST

Where: BOK Arena. Tulsa, OK

TV: None locally

Local Radio: 620AM

Tonight, the Phoenix Suns will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in an away game that is sure to test the mettle of the newly-formed, Nash-less squad from Planet Orange. The Suns have been impressive in their last two games, especially the starting five, but tonight will be their biggest test to date against one of the most talented teams in the league.

Like the Suns, the Thunder are coming off a Wednesday win of their own against the Charlotte Bobcats, who they pummeled 120-98...with only three of their four stars (Harden sat out with a groin injury). Although a win against the lowly Bobcats hardly seems worthy of bragging about, there is little question about the potency of OKC. The Suns will need to continue playing fast and aggressive on offense, while also tightening up their defense and re-bounding if they are going to pull out a win tonight.

Probable Starters:

Goran Dragic vs. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook is one of the most athletic and electrifying point guards in the NBA. He is extremely fast and strong for his size, and when he chooses to attack the basket he is one of the most difficult players to guard. Dragic will no doubt have his hands full playing against Westbrook tonight, but just like Russell, Goran is also very adept at slashing to the rim using his speed, athleticism, and craftiness to score inside. But unlike Westbrook, Dragic has proven to be a true point guard who is deadly as both a passer and a scorer. This should be a great match-up to watch.

Jared Dudley vs. Lazar Haywood

Thabo Sefalosha is still rehabbing a deep thigh bruise, and may or may not play in tonight's game. If he continues to sit, the Thunder could once again go with Lazar Haywood who they started in Sefalosha's place against the Bobcats, since James Harden is also questionable with a groin injury. Dudley has been quietly effective and efficient over the last two games, but hasn't really stood out yet...that could change tonight. If neither Sefalosha or Harden play tonight, Jared Dudley should be able to take advantage of this match-up and be one of the go-to guys on offense.

Michael Beasley vs. Kevin Durant

Michael Beasley has played very well in his first three games as a Sun. He has shown that he can not only be the scorer everyone knows he can be, but also an effective facilitator as well. Kevin Durant might just be the best all-around player in the NBA, so expect Beasley to have his hands full tonight. Still, Beasley should score his fair share of points for the Suns as well.

Luis Scola vs. Serge Ibaka

Scola has shown that he is every bit the savvy, crafty vet Phoenix hoped for when they placed the winning bid for him in the amnesty lottery. Scola has shown his talent and skill around the basket and from the perimeter as well. Scola may need to bring his mid-range game tonight as he will be tested mightily tonight against Ibaka who has never met a shot he couldn't swat. This should also be a good matchup to keep an eye on.

Marcin Gortat vs. Cole Aldrich

Kendrick Perkins is sidelined while recovering from a wrist surgery he had during the off-season, and the Thunder are looking for Cole Aldrich to step up and fill the void. Aldrich was fairly impressive in the first two preseason games, registering a double-double in each. However, he scored 0 points and grabbed only 5 rebounds in the 19 minutes he played against the Bobcats, so the jury's still out on just how effective he will be. As for Gortat, he also has a lot to prove. Can he show that he is still the same player with or without Nash? Going up against an inexperienced big like Aldrich should allow Gortat to showcase his skills and ability.

Keys to the Game:

  • Containment - Can Dragic contain Westbrook on defense while still remaining aggressive on offense? How will Beasley fare against the Durantula? The key to stopping the Thunder will be holding these two in check. Although both Durant and Westbrook are expected to play no more than a half, they are both potent scorers who can quickly change the outcome of a game. Meanwhile, Dragic and Beasley will not only have to effectively defend these two superstars, they will likely both have to score or facilitate most of the Suns' points on the offensive end as well.
  • Rebounding - The Suns have not yet shown that they can be reliable at securing the ball, and have given up too many second and third shot attempts. Gortat and Morris are the Suns' best rebounders, and the Suns will need a good game from both of them on the boards if they are going to pull out a win tonight.
  • The Bench - The Suns bench thus far has failed to produce at a comparable level to the starters. With Shannon Brown's status still uncertain at the moment, the Suns will need a big comeback game from Markieff Morris and Wesley Johnson along with smart and efficient point guard play from the backups to stave off the Thunder's young bench.

Phoenix Will certainly have their hands full tonight in Oklahoma City. This game should be a formidable test for the new-look Suns to determine whether or not they can hang with one of the powerhouses of the NBA, at least in terms of the preseason, that is.

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