Summing it Up

The Suns suffered their first loss of the young 2013-14 NBA season as they fell in Oklahoma City, 103-96. Goran Dragic was playing well (10 points, three rebounds, two assists) before spraining his ankle early in the second half, but with the Dragon out of commission Eric Bledsoe stepped forward and took control. Bledsoe went off for 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the second half to finish with 26, a career-high 14 assists and seven rebounds. After turning the ball over six times in the first half, Bledsoe cut it to just two in the second.

But the Thunder's superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just too much for the Suns, finishing with 33 and 10 rebounds and 21 and seven assists respectively.

The Suns made more 3-pointers and connected at a higher rate in this game than they did in the first two games combined (14-37 compared to 10-41), but they also turned the ball over 23 times and sent the Thunder to the line 37 times.

Telling the Story

The Suns got off to a good start against OKC behind a few threes by Channing Frye. Goran Dragic was also feeling it early on, doing a little of everything with six points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal.

The front line of Frye and Miles Plumlee protected the rim well early on, blocking some shots and making it tough for the Thunder to finish. However, Plumlee picked up his second foul just over five minutes into the game and had to take a seat.

In addition to his three 3-pointers, Frye also took Kevin Durant down to the post to draw a foul and hit a dribble pull-up from 15 feet out.

Jared Dudley was watching in support of his former teammate, and offered an explanation for that pull-up.

RT @JacobPadilla_: @JaredDudley619 @Channing_Frye When did he learn how to shoot off the dribble? (he's been training with @RyanReadThrive )

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) November 4, 2013

Frye finished with 10 points and two rebounds in the first quarter.

Unfortunately, Eric Bledsoe had a difficult time with the Thunder defense, turning the ball over four times in the first period. Despite Bledsoe's struggles, the Suns still found themselves up 24-21 after Marcus Morris hit a three late.

Russell Westbrook showed that the knee was just fine on a couple of plays, but overall he and Durant were held in check in the first with five and four points respectively.

The bench came in to play with Dragic to start the second period, and the Morris twins (Keef in particular) were all kinds of awful while Bledsoe started racking up assists but also continued to struggle with ball security.

Gerald Green provided a huge spark, however, and picked up the slack with his teammates struggling. Green brought a ton of energy and finished the period with 10 points and four rebounds.

Kevin Durant started to heat up, however, scoring nine in the quarter.

At the end of the half, the Suns still led 45-44.

The Suns suffered a major blow when Goran Dragic injured his ankle on a nice drive to the basket. Dragic sprained his left ankle and had to be helped from the bench back to the locker room. He obviously did not return.

With Dragic out of commission, Eric Bledsoe stepped up for the second straight game, and the Suns continued to play well without the Dragon. At the end of the third quarter, the Suns were still leading, 70-67.

The tide began to turn in the fourth quarter, however. The Suns expanded the lead to six at 79-73 with just under eight minutes to go, but the Thunder responded with a 22-8 run as Durant and Westbrook asserted themselves. A 3-pointer by P.J. Tucker and a step-back jumper by Frye brought the Suns within one possession, but failure to box out led to a rebound and slam by Durant.

The Suns ran a play to get Gerald Green open in the corner for a 3 and he hit it to cut the lead to three again. However, Tucker fouled Westbrook with just under 30 seconds left and Westbrook hit both. The Suns tried to run the same play to get Green open, but he stepped on the sideline, tuning the ball over and effectively ending the game.

Standout Performers

  • Kevin Durant: The second best player in the game shook off a slow start to post an efficient 33-10 double-double. He shot 10-19 from the field and hit 11-13 from the charity stripe.
  • Russell Westbrook: Westbrook made a much-needed return for the Thunder in this game and looked like his old self. He only shot 5-16 from the field, but got to the line 14 times (making 11) and provided Durant the offensive support he was missing in the first two games.
  • Eric Bledsoe: This game was a mixed bag for Bledsoe. He struggled mightily in the first half, turning the ball over at a high rate and failing to find a rhythm within the offense. However, he was terrific in the second half and almost singlehandedly won the game for the Suns down the stretch. However, even while he was playing well he made some bad decisions and shot way too many threes. Bledsoe is a work in progress, and at this point the spectacular things you're going to get from him are going to come with some facepalm-worthy plays as well.
  • Channing Frye: Frye was terrific tonight, and did more than just shoot long jumpers. He did that too (3-8 from deep), but he also went to work in the post, drawing a foul on Durant and hitting a couple of turnaround jumpers. Frye finished with 19 points, five rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes.
  • Gerald Green: Green returned to his preseason form in this game, providing a spark off the bench while hitting threes and crashing the glass. He finished with 21 points (5-10 from 3-point range) and eight rebounds, but also turned the ball over four times including the turnover that ended the Suns comeback attempt.

Final Thoughts

  • I pointed out in my preview that the Suns are going to have to start hitting 3-pointers, and they did that early on. However, they settled for and relied on the long ball a little too much late in the game. 37 attempts is way too many for this team. On the bright side, P.J. Tucker's shot is looking good and he made two threes for the third straight game.
  • The Thunder won this game at the free throw line. 37-22 is a huge gap in attempts. Westbrook and Durant out-shot the Suns by themselves with 27 between them. The Thunder were definitely the beneficiary of some questionable refereeing tonight. However, superstars get superstar calls and the Thunder had the two superstars in this game.
  • Miles Plumlee finally crashed back to earth. He picked up two early fouls, pulled in only five rebounds, played 24 scoreless minutes and forked the ball over three times.
  • The Suns may have lost, but they led for most of this game and had a chance late in the game. The Suns are a much-improved team and they appear to be very well coached. They are playing solid team defense. And they held on in the second half without their best player in Goran Dragic.
The Suns led at the end of every quarter except the one that mattered. Phoenix suffered its first loss of the year, falling 103-96 in Oklahoma City. Losing a very winnable game was made worse by the...

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Suns @ Thunder

  • Records: PHX 2-0; OKC 1-1 (Who saw that coming?)
  • TV: NBA TV (one of Phoenix's few games on national TV)
  • Radio: KTAR 620 (The venerable Al McCoy is always a great option if you can't watch the game)
  • Time: 5 p.m. AZT, 6 p.m. CST, 7 p.m. EST (It's daylight savings time everyone not in Arizona; set your clocks back i you haven't already)

Season Summary

The Suns have gotten off to a great start this season, although they haven't faced the stiffest of competition. The Suns opened the season with a double-digit win over a Portland Trail Blazers squad who wasn't ready for opening night. The DragonBlade bakcourt looked dominant while Miles Plumlee came out of nowhere to post a huge double-double.

Things went much less smoothly against the Utah Jazz on Friday, but the Suns still managed to come out on top thanks to some late heroics by Eric Bledsoe. Dragic and Bledsoe both struggled mightily early one, and the Dragon took an early exit after a collision with P.J. Tucker led to a facial contusion. After scoring just one point through three quarters, Bledsoe exploded for 17 in the fourth including the game winning three right in Gordon Hayward's eye with less than a second remaining.

The Thunder's first game went much like the Suns' second, as they pulled out a close win over the Jazz thanks to a big fourth quarter by Kevin Durant. Durant had 42 points, including 15 in the final period, and got just enough help from his supporting cast (14 each from Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha) to get the job done.

However, things got out of hand early against Minnesota and the Thunder never got back into the game. Durant finished with just 13 points while Jackson turned the ball over seven times and scored just eight points.

Previewing the Suns

The Suns' early success has had a lot to do with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, which isn't a surprise at all. However, it's the unexpected production that is leading to these wins. Miles Plumlee has had double-doubles in both games, averaging 14 rebounds per game and showing off a nice array of skills offensively. P.J. Tucker, better known for his defense, rebounding and all-around hustle, has been a potent scorer early on with 18 and 12 points in the two games. Even Dionte Christmas, who made his debut after sitting out game one, came up huge for the Suns by hitting a couple of shots that got the team going in the second half (he finished with nine points, four rebounds and a game-high +17).

However, while these guys have been a pleasant surprise, the Suns have struggled mightily from 3-point range as most expected them to. Phoenix has shot a combined 10-41 (24.4 percent) from deep in two games. P.J. Tucker (he of the trebuchet shooting motion) has been the Suns' best shooter while Channing Frye has understandably struggled with his shot. The Suns are going to have to start hitting some shots if they want to keep winning games.

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
Eric Bledsoe 2 33.0 5.5 13.5 40.7 1.0 5.0 20.0 8.0 10.5 76.2 0.5 5.5 6.0 6.0 4.5 1.5 0.0 3.0 20.0
Goran Dragic 2 32.5 7.0 16.0 43.8 0.5 3.5 14.3 1.0 1.5 66.7 0.0 4.0 4.0 7.0 2.5 1.0 0.5 3.0 15.5
Miles Plumlee 2 37.0 7.0 12.5 56.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 2.0 75.0 5.0 9.0 14.0 0.5 1.0 0.0 3.0 1.0 15.5
P.J. Tucker 2 35.5 6.0 10.5 57.1 2.0 3.0 66.7 1.0 1.0 100.0 3.0 1.5 4.5 1.5 1.5 2.0 0.5 2.0 15.0
Dionte Christmas 1 14.0 3.0 6.0 50.0 1.0 2.0 50.0 2.0 2.0 100.0 1.0 3.0 4.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 9.0
Gerald Green 2 14.5 2.0 3.5 57.1 0.5 1.5 33.3 1.5 2.0 75.0 0.5 0.5 1.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 1.5 6.0
Markieff Morris 1 25.0 3.0 6.0 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 4.0 6.0 0.0 1.0 2.0 0.0 1.0 6.0
Channing Frye 2 22.0 2.5 7.0 35.7 0.5 3.0 16.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 3.0 3.5 0.5 1.0 1.0 1.0 3.0 5.5
Marcus Morris 2 17.0 1.5 5.5 27.3 0.0 2.5 0.0 2.0 2.0 100.0 0.5 3.5 4.0 0.5 2.0 1.5 0.5 2.0 5.0
Alex Len 2 10.5 1.0 2.0 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 1.0 50.0 1.0 0.5 1.5 0.0 1.0 0.5 1.0 3.5 2.5
Archie Goodwin 2 9.5 1.0 4.0 25.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.5 0.0 1.0 0.5 2.0
Ish Smith 1 11.0 1.0 5.0 20.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 4.0 5.0 1.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 2.0

Previewing the Thunder


The Thunder have been without superstar point guard Russell Westbrook so far this season while he continues to recover from injury, and that will be the case again in this game. Reggie Jackson played pretty well in his place during the playoffs after Westbrook went down, and played well in the opener. But he was a train wreck in their last game. Serge Ibaka has also been unable to get it going early in the season as he has yet to reach double figures in scoring and has shot 7-28 from the field. Second-year guard Jeremy Lamb hasn't even been as good off the bench as Kevin martin was last year, let alone James Harden. They needed Durant to go off for 40 in order to reach 100 points. That team is designed for Durant and Westbrook to score more than half the team's points, and without Westbrook this team is very beatable.

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 2 33.0 6.5 17.5 37.1 1.5 6.5 23.1 13.0 14.5 89.7 0.0 5.0 5.0 1.0 4.5 1.5 1.0 2.0 27.5
Reggie Jackson 2 28.0 4.0 9.5 42.1 1.0 4.0 25.0 2.0 2.0 100.0 0.0 2.5 2.5 3.5 5.0 3.0 0.0 2.0 11.0
Jeremy Lamb 2 19.0 4.5 10.5 42.9 1.0 3.0 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 3.0 3.5 1.0 0.5 0.5 0.5 1.5 10.0
Thabo Sefolosha 2 26.5 3.5 9.5 36.8 1.0 3.5 28.6 1.0 1.0 100.0 1.5 2.5 4.0 1.0 0.5 2.0 0.0 2.5 9.0
Serge Ibaka 2 34.0 3.5 14.0 25.0 0.5 2.0 25.0 1.0 1.0 100.0 3.0 6.5 9.5 0.5 1.0 0.5 1.0 3.0 8.5
Nick Collison 2 14.5 2.0 3.5 57.1 0.5 0.5 100.0 2.0 2.0 100.0 0.5 1.5 2.0 0.0 1.5 0.5 0.5 4.0 6.5
Derek Fisher 2 17.0 2.0 4.5 44.4 0.5 2.5 20.0 1.0 1.0 100.0 0.0 2.5 2.5 3.0 1.0 0.5 0.0 2.0 5.5
Kendrick Perkins 2 21.5 2.5 4.0 62.5 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 3.5 4.5 1.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 3.5 5.0
Steven Adams 2 20.5 1.5 3.0 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 3.5 57.1 3.5 2.0 5.5 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 4.0 5.0
Perry Jones 2 16.0 1.0 4.5 22.2 0.5 2.0 25.0 0.5 1.0 50.0 0.0 1.5 1.5 0.0 1.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 3.0
Andre Roberson 1 9.0 0.0 2.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 4.0 1.0 5.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ryan Gomes 1 6.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

Starting Lineups

  • G: Eric Bledsoe - Reggie Jackson Russell Westbrook
  • G: Goran Dragic** - Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF: P.J. Tucker - Kevin Durant
  • PF: Channing Frye - Serge Ibaka
  • C: Miles Plumlee - Kendrick Perkins

**Dragic's status is unknown at this time; if he is held out I'm guessing Gerald Green gets the start and we see both Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas again. We'll update you when we know more. Per Paul Coro, Dragic is fine to play and left the last game early because the facial contusion inhibited his vision. No concussion as some had feared.

Match-ups to Watch

  • Bledsoe vs. Jackson: Eric Bledsoe needs to shut down Jackson and prevent him from going off for 20 or more points while also being the driving force for the Suns' offense; this becomes even more important if Dragic can't go or is limited. Forget this one. It would be nice if Bledsoe still shuts down Jackson, but shutting down Westbrook is much more important. It's a match-up of two of the most athletic point guards in the game and should be a lot of fun.
  • Tucker vs. Durant: No matter what the result ends up being, seeing these two go at it should be fun. Tucker plays a very physical brand of defense and Durant is one of the very best scorers in the league. Without Westbrook, Durant has to do even more and Tucker is going to make that tough for him.
  • Frye vs. Ibaka: Ibaka has had a nightmare start offensively, and that is going to have to continue if the Suns want to win. They can't afford for Ibaka to get good looks and go off for 20 points. On the other end, Ibaka is one of the best shot-blockers in the game and loves to hang out in the paint and cover for his teammates. If Ibaka leaves Frye to go protect the rim, Frye is going to have to find his stroke and make him pay.
  • Alex Len vs. Steven Adams: This is an intriguing match-up of talented yet raw rookie centers. Len has only played 21 minutes and recorded five points (2-4 shooting, 1-2 from the line), three rebounds, two blocks and seven personal fouls. He has struggled to adjust to the NBA game and find chemistry with his teammates. Adams, on the other hand, has played almost 42 minutes and has produced 10 points (4-11 shooting, 4-7 free throws), 11 rebounds, one block and eight fouls. Neither guy has quite figured it out at this point, but it will be interesting to see if and how much they match up head-to-head in this game.

Key to the Game

    I detailed the Thunder's offensive struggles above; the Suns need to play solid team defense and prevent the supporting cast from giving Durant the support he needs. If they can hold Ibaka and Jackson in check, the Suns should have a very good chance at 3-0. Disciplined, fundamental team defense is going to be the key in this game.

*NEW KEY: Keep Westbrook in check and make his points come at the cost of a lot of shots and turnovers.

If you didn't get a chance to read Part One, go back and read it, but other than that let's get to it! Here is Part Two of The Great Philly Debate with Michael Levine of Liberty Ballers:


Let's take this in to overtime for a minute. With both the Suns and 76ers both getting a game under the belt, each were surprising and impressive in different ways. What is your one game, way too early, instant (over) reaction to Michael Carter-Williams having an otherworldly rookie performance?

The Suns were impressive in the fact that they played with amazing energy, got off to a hot start, and held off what most people would consider a playoff team. That was an entertaining game. The rookies were not overly impressive, but they are also not a part of the fabric of the team just yet.

It is a one game snap shot for both teams, but it seems that each are going to be more exciting than a typical bottom five lottery team. -- KH

That Sixers game was the best regular season win I've ever seen. They're going to lose a lot of games, sure, but it's such a great feeling for the players and coaches when they win in such a solid way. Also an F-U to people that think they're doing something wrong, which I'd like to repeat, is ridiculous.

MCW can play at a high level in the NBA. That's what we know from this. It won't be every night, but he's got the ability to do everything on the court to become a franchise point guard. That's crazy encouraging.

Seems like the Suns are really going to ease Len back into things. I don't really agree with that, unless it's an injury concern. Giving PJ Tucker 39 minutes seems like just a bad idea all around. -- ML

With Len it is 100% an injury concern. They are easing him in because his foot is still hindering him and they do not want to cause further damage. The team has done a good job of communicating that so Len does not get an impression of a guy that not playing well or is, thanks to recent memory, another Kendall Marshall.

What is wrong with Tuck getting the minutes? He is the teams best all-around wing defender, rebounder, and player in my opinion. The alternative is Marcus Morris and/or Gerald Green. Also, for one game, Markieff Morris was suspended so they were down a big and some players played out of position.

As we wind this conversation down, which has been fun, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up Nerlens Noel. Thoughts on Coach Brown verbally committing to him not getting on the court this year? -- KH

Tucker isn't part of future plans. His contract expires after this year. If he's trade bait, I get it, but even still. You want to get those young guys in there for more time. He's inessential to what the rebuilding plan is. He's Damien Wilkins from the Sixers last year. Maybe you don't have those young guys to plug in -- I don't think much of Gerald Green -- so that's more of an organizational problem coming into the season.

Brown most certainly did not "verbally commit" to Noel not playing this season. And it's not like they're keeping him out intentionally. He tore his ACL. The Sixers spent a very high pick on him. They will not rush him back until he's ready. He's vital to the team's future success and this season doesn't matter. When he's healthy, he'll play. Brown said as much. They're just not going to deal with timetables and "he'll be back in January" because of everything that happened with Bynum last year. It was a PR disaster, and this year is all about managing expectations. I believe Noel will play 20 or so games this year. But if Brown says a date and then he doesn't make it, it'll just add to the built-up frustrations of an exhausted fan base. -- ML

I get that. You do not rush back anyone from an injury and committing to a timeline can ultimately come back and bite you in the ass. It is almost the same situation as Len, different injuries with different severities, where you do not want to overexert a piece to the future puzzle.

For the 76ers, MCW and Noel are two of those long-term puzzle pieces. They have maybe 3-4 of those pieces at this stage in the game.

With the Suns, Len and Goodwin are both pieces. They also might have a few more in (either) Bledsoe and Dragic, Plumlee, and the Morris Twins. I agree that Tucker is not a long-term piece for the team, but as a veteran leader I can see him lasting on the roster for 4-5 years for the right price to be a locker room presence. We might have to agree to disagree on that one. The 76ers do not have that middling veteran that is not overly talented, but works hard get on the court. There is value in that for the young players in my opinion. -- KH

Well, differing perspectives, sure.

Congrats on the win, good luck this season with whatever you'd like the Suns to do. -- ML

Same here, hopefully the Suns and the 76ers can be a fun and exciting product for their respective fan-bases. That is all a fan can ask for in this situation of rebuilding. Thanks for jumping on and dealing with me via email for the past few days as we get started with this current NBA season.

Based on the way Michael Carter-Williams and Miles Plumlee debuted this could be a much more interesting season than anyone would of thought, for the the teams at the bottom.

Anyways, best of luck to you in the lottery. If anything, the Suns and the 76ers both seem to need the talent the No. 1 provides and deserve a shot at a franchise star player to lead the way going forward. That I am sure we can both agree on. -- KH


What do you think Bright Siders?

Time: 5 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ / NBATV It’s still early in the season, but Vegas wouldn’t bet on the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder meeting Sunday under such circumstances. A 2-0...

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