Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, left, of the Republic of the Congo, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

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7 days ago: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, left, of the Republic of the Congo, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

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I'm going to go ahead and take off my journalist hat and put on my Suns fan hat. This was a soul crushing defeat. The Suns jumped out to a double digit lead over the Thunder and played with balls, grit, determination, and passion. But a series off awful calls by the officials and a cold 4th quarter offensively inevitably did them in tonight.

Vince Carter played 3 quarters of amazing basketball only to go cold when the squad needed him the most in the 4th. The Thunder went on a game clinching 10-3 run, outscoring the Suns 31-20 in the 4th. What should have been a hard fought victory turned into a another notch in the L column for your beloved Phoenix Suns. Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook killed the Suns on this night. And while I don't enjoy tooting my own predictions, I have to admit that I called it when I said that that the key to a Suns victory was to let Kevin Durant get his while limiting the rest of the Thunder to chip in and do damage. Needless to say it didn't happen. The Thunder bench outscored the Suns 36-22, out-rebounded the Suns 18-13, and tallied a +56 to the Suns -66.

Depression

The Thunder neutralized Marcin Gortat to 3-10 shooting and a -16. The trio of Gortat/Frye/Pietrus was a combined 9-33 from the field. The real killer for the Thunder was Jeff Green, who capitalized on a plenty of wide open looks to total 28 points. Serge Ibaka hit 9 of his 10 attempts and deftly maneuvered for a handful of uncontested rebounds.

The Suns now sit in the 10 seed, 1.5 games behind Portland and Memphis with a sad 14-11 home record.

And if you were thinking you were alone bitching at your television about some of the calls that didn't go the Suns ways, the Suns beat writer, Mr. Paul Coro tweeted this to confirm your suspicions:

Bad David Guthrie call compounded by Ts for Nash and Hill. OKC ties it at 97 w/Durant going 2 of 4 on the FTs.

And then, just when you were contemplating ordering your Vince Carter jersey, this:

Carter was 11 for 16 before missing his last five shots. OKC 107-103 w/the ball and 32.6 seconds to go.

And there was me who noted:

Durant travels but foul called on Nash, WTF?

No there was no foul, and yes the call was awful.

What are you gonna do? Keep fighting. Can't blame the refs. The Suns could have made more shots in the 4th (5-18) and didn't do themselves any favors by allowing the Thunder 48 points in the paint.

The Bright Side:

It ain't the end of the world, right? The Suns are still in striking distance of that coveted 8th seed. There is still time right? Help me out here BSOTS world. This team proved tonight they can hang with a division leader. We can do this, there is hope, because there is this: 


Marcin Gortat smashes against OKC (via outsidethenba)

Thunder vs Suns coverage

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Welcome to Loud City

[Note by Seth Pollack, 02/04/11 10:42 PM MST ]

 

Phoenix Suns Frustrated Over Questionable Calls In Late-Game Loss To Thunder - SB Nation Arizona
"It's hard enough guarding (Durant) one-on-one. He's a great player and I think the world of him as a player and as a person and I enjoy competing against him. It's certainly a challenge. He's a great scorer," Hill said. "He's an honest guy. He said on that play I didn't foul him."

Tons of other quotes in this story, including Nash talking about All-Star snub.

 

Audio

Game Notes

1st Qtr

  • I like Vince's chances to D up on Sefalosha.
  • Westbrook gets in the lane, misses, Thunder get the OReb and score. Not a good start.
  • Vince posts up Thabo, spins, draws an iffy foul, and scores. OK
  • Before the game I noticed Robin and Russell sharing a moment. They are buds apparently. Pac-10 thing? Both grew up playing in California. Shared comic book passion?
  • Great start on defense. Up 18-8, 7:37. Interesting.
  • Vince Carter. 11 points. Nice.
  • This is Thabo's first game back from injury but still...
  • Durant bait the old man into that foul. He's soooo good.
  • Vince to the line. Be still my heart. Suns are going to him a lot early. Ride that pony!
  • Not the prettiest hook shot, but Robin made it.
  • Frye with a couple nice baskets in the paint. Thunder switching and Suns taking advantage in the paint.
  • Robin got a solid 8 minutes of run.
  • So much for the good defense. 33-29. 10 points for Durant.
  • Ibaka and Durant blocking some shots up in here.
  • 36-31, Suns

2nd Qtr

  • Warrick getting some run. Lets seem some ENERGY!!
  • Rare mistake from Zabian
  • Suns 61% shooting in 1st qtr. Thunder 58.3%. D-FENCE!
  • Gortat does pass well out the double teams. Good rotations though by OKC but Dudley hit the three anyway.
  • 2nd foul on Gortat. Robin's going to get some extra minutes tonight.
  • Maynor was working on that floater before the game. Work paid off.
  • MP actually passed up a shot...unfortunately, he passed it to Warrick for a mid-range J. You know how that ends.
  • 43-41, 7:49. Dowdell not exactly impressing.
  • There you go, Hak. Jumped the screen and forced the turnover.
  • Good job there by Z to force Maynor to foul him on the break.
  • Jeff Green's three => Gentry timeout. 51-48, OKC. 5:00. Nash coming back in.
  • I am no country music fan, but I do enjoy the Suns dancers in their little western get-ups. Nice touch.
  • Robin, Grant, Steve and Channing back in.
  • Robin's got his man sealed under the rim and Vince ignores him and drives it himself. He made it so the bad play is totally forgotten....except I wrote about it here.
  • Like Robin's activity. Vince acts his way to an offensive call on Jeff Green.
  • Channing Frye curling off a screen takes a pass from Vince and finishes w/ a nice lay up. I don't think I've EVER seen that. And really I never expected to see that.
  • There are people in this world whose job is to go up on the catwalk high above the arena and drop sandwiches on people. I love this world.
  • Vince now playing dumb. Ignores a long rebound and then has about the least effective close out on Harden ever.
  • Gentry put Zabian in for defense and he fouls Westbrook on the jump shot.
  • Damn, Lopez called for the foul w/ .7 sec on the clock. Tough one.
  • 63-60. No much defense.

3rd Qtr

  • Durant, Harden, Westbrook and Green all in double figures. Thunder shot 62.5%. Got to shut at least one of those guys down.
  • That's a YouTube hightligh...Grant goes up, tips the lobs but Durant still finishes the play.
  • Suns getting some open threes but not making a lick of them.
  • Feels like the Suns are getting away from taking advantage of the mismatches in the paint and just taking jumpers...and missing them all
  • Nash has just three points. Come on, Westbrook isn't that good.
  • Frye rolls and the pick and roll instead of pops on the pick and pop. This is a very unusual game for him.
  • Gortat in for Robin. 69-69. 6 min.
  • Pretty impressive move by Green in the post against Frye. I thought Frye defended him well.
  • Nash feeds Gortat in the front of the rim but b/c he's not explosive enough, the time it took him to gather and go up, Ibaka was able to recover and block the dunk.
  • Then Nash finds Gortat on a nice side pick and roll for a dunk...running and off one leg.
  • Kiss Cam back...better than Fist Pump cam? I guess so...
  • Charge taken by Carter. I'm told that's his third in three games. Props given.
  • 27 points for Vince too. This is probably is best game so far as a Sun.
  • Pretty lazy defense by Westbrook on that screen but Nash missed the shot and bailed him out.
  • Now the threes are falling. 80-74. Thunder packing it on the Gortat rolls open up the corners.
  • People come on, don't get greedy. You are NOT going to hit that half-court shot. Take the three...or even the free throw.
  • Serge Ibaka should be in the dunk contest...
  • Nash arguing that he was pushed out of bounds on the baseline. He gets that call a LOT. Not this time.
  • Suddenly the whistles are blowing like it's a parade of hot girls walking across the court in front of a crowd full of construction workers.
  • Wow, what a block from Frye on Harden!
  • That got some people fired up!
  • Suns get two offensive rebounds through sheer determination. That's the kind of play people will pay to see.
  • 87-80. I'm impressed.

4th Qtr

  • Zabian time...wish that inspired more confidence....and Z drives and turns it over.
  • Jeff Green is having a great game. Thunder on a 6-0 run over the last one minute.
  • Gentry took the ball out of Z's hands and has Dudley running point.
  • 88-88
  • Z hits a J. Suns now in zone defense.
  • Great block by MP. 92-88 after Maynor misses on of those floaters I mentioned about 90 minutes ago.
  • Durant back in for Ibaka. Nash coming in as well at the 8:00 mark. 92-88. Gentry not willing to gamble on Z any more.
  • Quick middle pick and roll in transition catches Thunder napping. Gordunk.
  • OH HELL NO!!! Kiss Cam AND Fist Pump Cam. I am going to have to speak with someone about this!
  • Green misses a wide open three. Sometimes lucky beats good.
  • Apparently Russell Westbrook finger gunz are less deadly than Gilbert's
  • 97-93, Suns.
  • Live by the Vince. Die by the Vince.
  • Iffy call on Hill foul on Durant and Suns get two T's for ageing. One for Hill and the other on...Nash? Gentry? Carter? Me?
  • 97-97, 4:07. Crowd at least fired up.
  • Nash forces refs to call a 5th foul on Ibaka. They might not have wanted to call it but Nash gave them no choice.
  • Two FTAs for Nash b/c despite that outrage, the Thunder are in the penalty and the Suns are not.
  • 102-99
  • Ibaka can hit a turnaround from 10 feet? Really?
  • 103-102, OKC w/ Gortat at the line for two. He Lou's it. 1-1.
  • Ibaka flies in for the tip-back off Westbrooks miss. Box out?
  • Suns go to the zone. Harden misses a wide open corner three. 105-103, OKC. 1:00
  • Carter misses a go-to guy shot. Mr. Not So Clutch...I guess.
  • Westbrook hits his. 107-103.
  • And another shot for Carter. I know he has 33 points but...well...
  • Suns force a turnover on the in-bound pass and get Nash a layup. 105-107, 16 sec. Life?
  • Well, looks like Durant traveled but got bailed out w/ a Nash foul call.
  • 109-105, 14 sec. Suns ball.
  • Out of the time out the Suns end up with basically nothing. That will do it.


Vinsanity Alive Again?


SNUBBED(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Nick Laham - Getty Images

SNUBBED(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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4 in a row, y'all


Rough him up(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

More photos » Alonzo Adams - AP

Rough him up(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

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Tonight your Phoenix Sunslook to extend their 3-game winning streak to 4 at home versus the Oklahoma City  Thunder. Kevin Duranthas gone for 40 in 3 of his last 4 games and even tossed in 18 rebounds Vs. the Kevin Love-led T-Wolves.  Quick aside: What do Love and Steve Nash have in common? Yup, not All-Stars. Come on David Stern, make the right decision here. Wuddya bet he sticks it to the Suns again?

The Thunder hit the frigid desert winners of 6 of their last 10 and most recently a victory over the New Orleans Hornets. The Thunder have been playing some solid ball and find themselves atop their division. As a BSOTS exclusive, I asked the infamous Dogburt from Welcome to Loud CIty to answer some questions regarding the Thunder:

WC:  Are the Thunder going to be active as the trade deadline approaches, or are they pretty happy with the squad they currently have?

DBT: If I could answer the second part first, I'd have to say no, they're not happy with the squad that they currently have, but unfortunately, I think they realize that they're going to have to make it work this year, even if it means they come up a bit short.

The challenge the Thunder face when considering trades is more philosophical than practical, I think. The organization has made a commitment to pursue players that are of good moral character, similar to the way that the Portland Trailblazers decided to remake their image. With that in place, they're looking for long term pieces to their mosaic. They're definitely not going to chase a high priced power forward to simply rent him for a year, because it would blow up their carefully scripted salary cap.

Aside from that, I'm not sure how many traditional centers or power forwards are available right now that can be had. The Thunder's youth core is Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka; I would tend to believe everyone else on the squad is in play. The problem still remains though; if you offer guys like Harden, Collison, Sefolosha, Green, and Maynor, who are you going to get back that has a bright long-term future? I don't see a lot of guys on the NBA landscape at this time that can answer to that need.

WC:  How do you see Harden and Sefolosha working out in the long run. Is Thabo the long-term starter with Harden backing him up? Or do you see Harden winning out, and how soon?

DBT: I really don't see Sefolosha as a long-term solution for the shooting guard position. At this level of competition, you need all five starters to possess at least a minimum level of competency when it comes to offense. However, if you look at Sefolosha's game log, you can see that in the month of January, he did not have a single game where he attempted more than five shots. Heck, his shooting line for the entire month was 16-32, which could easily be a single game stat line for someone like Kobe or Carmelo Anthony. In other words, he's not even a threat to score.

Now, of course, his defenders would say that isn't why he's on the team; he's on the team for defense. Unfortunately, his perimeter defense hasn't been great either. He can use his length and strength to defend guys who are more apt to post up than drive, but against most starting back courts his foot speed simply isn't good enough. On this team, he is much more useful as a defensive stopper who comes in for key situations. His ceiling is to become a player like Raja Bell or Bruce Bowen, but offensively, he isn't there yet.

For THIS year, I think Harden is best suited coming off the bench. Too often he has been put in a position playing along side Kevin Durant where the only thing available to him is the spot-up three. This shot is easily the weakest part of his game. Harden is the kind of guy, sort of like Grant Hill is now, who just needs the ball to flow through him on offense. He doesn't take bad shots, he can drive to the rim, he is a decent passer, is long enough to grab rebounds, and is a better than average defender.

However, if he's just a drifting jump shooter, he's going to lose himself amidst the speed of the game which, for the first team, is going to be dictated by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. On the second team though, the offense flows at a much less frenetic pace and he seems much more comfortable there. As a result, the Thunder's bench is one of their sneaky strong assets.

WC:  Why do you think Cole Aldrich has not played this season? He seems like someone the team needs.

DBT: Aldrich is absolutely a guy the team needs this year, because they have a gaping hole in the center position. Serge Ibaka has been surprising, Nick Collison always plays well, and Jeff Greenhas tried to hold things together while playing out of position. However, their center Nedad Krstic simply is not physically equipped to deal with the likes of guys like Tyson Chandler, Tim Duncan, and Zach Randolph.
So the need is there, and yet it has been frustrating because the reports I keep seeing out of the local reporters is that Aldrich really hasn't tried to assert himself.

I don't think it's a sense of self-entitlement or anything like that, but he hasn't been willing to make the commitment to work hard in practices. So the team has been shuttling him back and forth between the Thunder and their D-League team, the Tulsa 66ers. He was the 11th pick in the draft (drafted by the Hornets, traded to the Thunder on draft day); not a lottery pick, but also not a throw-away pick either. Naysayers tend to gripe about James Harden not having lived up to the #3 pick, but I think Aldrich has been the real miscue. The opportunity and need is definitely there; for whatever reason, he hasn't tried to seize it in the way that guys like Trevor Booker or Patrick Patterson have in their rookie campaigns.

WC:  Do you think Russell Westbrook needs to be more of a distributor than scorer? Obviously 22 points per game is nice, but do you think he could or should be getting his teammates more involved?

DBT: Westbrook for better or worse is a combo guard who is probably going to struggle throughout his career to find the right balance between his offense and the offense of his teammates. It is hard to fault him though because he is so freakishly athletic and can do things most point guards cannot. It is almost like, from a pure point guard perspective, he is a victim of his own talents. He is not in the same mold as a guy like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, or even Rajon Rondo.

Paul and Williams are an extremely rare breed of point men that fully understand how to run a team. Rondo plays set-up man because he has to, by force of fact of who he is playing with and since his offensive game is still rudimentary. Westbrook though doesn't have that problem, and so he's going to spend a career trying to figure out how to dial back his need to attack the rim. Right now, he plays the game like Dwyane Wade; he needs to learn to play it like Andre Miller.

There is hope though. I think the guy he is most similar to is Derrick Rose. Rose is better defensively and Westbrook is a better rebounder, but from a pure scoring standpoint I think they're at similar places in their respective careers. And this year we've seen Rose begin to figure out how to be a true point guard and not an offensive vortex. It is, however, a long-term learning process.

WC: How far away do you think the Thunder are from being part of the Western Conference Elite? That is, do you think your squad is close to challenging San Antonio and LA for WC supremacy? What is it going to take to make a deep run in the postseason?

DBT: If you put a t-shirt canon to my head, I'd tell you that the Thunder's ceiling this year is most likely the second round of the playoffs. If the Thunder stay at their current pace, they'll likely wind up at the 4th spot playing against a team like the Hornets, which is a very winnable series (Thunder won regular season series 3-1). After that though, the Thunder are looking at facing either the Spurs, Mavericks, or Lakers.

Regardless of whether they have home court against any of those teams, they are still not mature enough yet to be able to deal with any of them in a seven game series. They might compete well and take a game or two, but the Thunder haven't yet learned the resolve to play with the intensity and focus it takes to beat one of those teams four times. It will, however, give the Thunder a necessary set of lessons on how to become that kind of team next year.

The time of the Thunder will come when one of those three teams (Lakers, Spurs, Mavs) slips. Unless the Lakers pull off another ridiculous Pau Gasol-like trade/steal, I think the Lakers will be the first to slip.

WC: How guilty do Thunder fans feel about young Russell Westbrook stealing Steve Nash's All-Star spot?

DBT: My official Loud City answer to this question is, not at all of course. ;-)

My NBA fan answer is, I really care more about the enjoyment of the game vs whether a player got snubbed or not. Occasionally you will get a decent guy who is just having a phenomenal year (guys like Caron Butler or Al Horford), and it is good to see him rewarded with the selection. With a guy like Westbrook though, it's obvious that, barring serious injury, he's going to have multiple chances to play in the game. So it takes me back to the question of, "which players will make this game worth watching?"

Under that lens, it's easy to conclude that the presence of Steve Nash on the court would make the game improve by leaps and bounds. You'd have Nash and Chris Paul trading off, not caring a lick about their own offense, and working hard to set up guys like Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Kobe. Hopefully Nash will still get the nod when Yao's replacement is named.

Check out this for my insight on the Suns.

Game Day Thoughts:

Don't get me wrong on this but, this one is an excellent test for the Suns. Okafor was destroying the Suns before he exited with some phantom hip injury. The Celticswere playing shorthanded. Both squads were playing second nights of back to backs. Now, the wins still count and the Suns played well, so I'll take them. But tonight the Suns are taking on a squad running on all cylinders (Sefolosha is questionable).

Stopping Durant is a near impossibility. Slowing him is possible, but book him for 35-40. The real problem the Suns face is keeping Russell Westbrook from getting to the rim and distributing to teammates. As is always the case, it's OK to let one guy beat you, but the Suns have to rotate and get a hand in the grill of Jeff Greene-keep Ibaka/Krstic/Collison off the boards. The Suns need Gortat and Lopez to bring it, they need VC to put the cookie down and pick up the ball, or whatever it is that can potentially motivate him.

Think Steve Nash is pissed about missing the All-Star game? Probably not. With all the travel-sitting and whatnot he usually returned with an aggravation of his back condition. So perhaps he isn't so upset about about the logistics. But the competetor in him mustbe pissed. And to be facing a kid who took his spot so soon after the snub? I look for Nash to have a more than typically huge game.

Game Day Links:

 

Phoenix Suns Try For .500 Against Kevin Durant's Thunder Team - SB Nation Arizona

"Transition defense is the key. Pick and roll defense, I think we have to do a great job. Gortat is playing unbelievable basketball. Playing like one of the best centers in the league right now. Since he's been here his game has kind of blossomed," the budding super-star said.

Durant also had praise for a childhood hero, "Grant Hill is playing unbelievable for his age. He's playing great. He's playing like a 22-year-old."

"I kind of looked up to him as a player. It's cool to see how well he's playing at such an old age. Sorry to put that in there."

 

Durant and Bosh Verbally Spar: Ball Don't Lie

Majerle Loves Coaching: Az Republic 

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Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Phoenix Suns 107 PHOENIX — Earlier this week Alvin Gentry challenged his team to reach the elusive .500 mark by the All-Star break. If the Suns can knock off the...

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