Suns Try To Break Through Thunder, Brighten Phoenix's Forecast

With a hard-earned 5-1 record since the All-Star Break, the Phoenix Suns find themselves only 1/2 game out of the 8th playoff seed with 22 games remaining on the schedule.

But it's not just since the All-Star break that the Suns have been playing well. How about since the now-annual January 28 "kick it into high gear" game? 12-4 so far, thankyouverymuch (after 28-7 last year). And overall since the "Denver debacle", marked by team President Lon Babby's public apology for the team's play and Marcin Gortat's proclamation that the Suns defense was the worst in the league, the Suns are a sterling 17-7.

The Suns are on a roll, just in time to face a very difficult string of games in the near horizon. While their slate is no more difficult than another other contender in the 5-10 range, it's tough nonetheless.

OKC tonight. Houston (and Dragic) Tuesday. Denver (and their band of merry men) Thursday. Orlando (and JRich/Hedo) next Sunday.

Can the Suns come out with supreme energy on the last of 6 straight road games tonight? How will they react to seeing Dragic in red on Tuesday? Or JRich in blue pinstripes on Sunday? Or, in between those games, the blurry-paced speed demons from Denver who've regularly crushed the Suns without Carmelo and now have even more speedy reinforcements?

We will see what this team is made of. Starting tonight.

Hit the jump for details on OKC, and commentary on Steve Nash's health.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Mighty OKC's record (38-22) is nearly the same as the Suns (32-28)! You just gotta swap a couple of the numbers. In Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, OKC has the requisite 2 All-Stars needed to be a title contender. The biggest question remaining for this team is whether they can get it done on the big stage of the playoffs.

New, and necessary, acquisitions C Kendrick Perkins and backup PG Nate Robinson are out for this game. But OKC is not likely worried. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collision and Nazr Mohammed are all Suns-killers who will gobble up the minutes at the 4 and 5 spots tonight. In addition, former ASU star and current Suns killer James Harden has stepped up as the third scoring option (17 PPG last 6 games) in the absence of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.


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 56 39.3 9.4 20.2 46.6 1.8 5.2 34.5 7.8 8.9 87.5 0.8 6.3 7.1 2.8 3.0 1.1 0.9 2.1 28.4
Russell Westbrook 60 35.2 7.5 17.1 43.9 0.4 1.2 30.4 6.8 8.0 84.6 1.6 3.2 4.8 8.4 3.8 1.8 0.4 2.5 22.1
James Harden 60 26.0 3.2 7.6 42.1 1.3 3.6 35.3 3.3 3.9 84.1 0.5 2.6 3.1 2.0 1.2 1.1 0.3 2.5 11.0
Serge Ibaka 60 26.0 3.8 6.8 55.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.2 75.0 2.6 4.8 7.3 0.3 0.8 0.4 2.1 3.2 9.2
Kendrick Perkins 12 26.1 2.7 4.9 54.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.9 3.3 57.5 1.9 6.2 8.1 0.8 2.1 0.2 0.8 3.1 7.3
Nazr Mohammed 53 16.8 3.1 6.2 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.7 60.0 1.9 3.1 5.0 0.3 1.0 0.3 0.9 2.4 7.2
Nate Robinson 56 17.7 2.6 6.5 40.5 1.1 3.5 32.8 0.6 0.8 81.0 0.3 1.3 1.6 1.9 1.2 0.5 0.1 2.0 7.0
Daequan Cook 21 14.1 1.8 4.3 40.7 1.4 3.7 38.5 0.4 0.5 80.0 0.2 1.6 1.9 0.5 0.5 0.2 0.0 1.3 5.3
Thabo Sefolosha 57 26.9 1.9 4.1 47.2 0.4 1.2 29.9 0.8 1.1 75.8 0.8 3.9 4.7 1.4 0.8 1.4 0.4 2.3 5.0
Eric Maynor 60 14.6 1.7 4.3 39.4 0.5 1.3 39.7 0.7 0.9 72.7 0.3 1.2 1.5 2.6 0.9 0.4 0.1 1.3 4.6
Nick Collison 51 20.9 1.7 3.2 54.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.0 78.0 1.7 2.6 4.3 0.8 0.8 0.6 0.5 2.9 4.3
Royal Ivey 19 6.7 0.8 1.6 48.4 0.3 0.6 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.7 0.8 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.7 1.9
Byron Mullens 12 4.6 0.4 1.6 26.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.8 50.0 0.4 1.2 1.6 0.0 0.5 0.1 0.3 0.8 1.3
Cole Aldrich 12 9.2 0.5 0.9 54.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 50.0 0.9 1.7 2.6 0.2 0.6 0.3 0.4 1.9 1.2

Keys to tonight's game

Durant and Westbrook will get theirs, but everyone on the floor knows it. The Suns need to make these guys' points come with less efficiency than normal. 25 points is okay if it's on 25-30 shots.

After those 2 guys, DON'T allow 2 or more other players amongst Harden, Sefalosha, Cook, Ibaka, Collison and Mohammed to have career games. Last time, it was Ibaka and Green who killed the Suns in Phoenix (which resulted in a last-minute win for OKC). A few years ago, I still remember Nazr Mohammed dropping 30 and 11 on the Suns while playing for the Spurs. And I can't count how many times Nick Collison has helped beat the Suns with double-doubles.

If only one of those tertiary guys goes off, the Suns can weather it. If two or more have great games, it will be a long night.


Nash's Injuried Pubic Bone

Symbolic of the Suns' in-game turnaround, Nash went from a seven-turnover first half to making eight second-half assists without a turnover. If it hurt to watch, imagine how it felt for Nash, who has been fighting through the same pubic bone irritation that hurt him in November.

"It's not been this painful," Nash said. "The muscle group in my underlying stomach muscles shuts off so you lose a lot of control. Then there's shearing forces and I have issues with my pelvis. I've had a lack of control because that muscle has been shut off for the last week but the pain just started. Playing like that for a week has made it inflamed. I just have to start back at step one and get my strength back. I definitely am not trying to shut it down. I'll try to get back on top of it and stay ahead of it."

Read more:

Am I the only one who thinks Steve Nash might be messing with us a little bit? He's definitely hurting, no doubt. But anyone who follows his work via Meathawk videos, twitter and facebook knows that he's got a sharp, dry sense of humor delivered with the most deadpan of faces.

Loss of muscle control...shearing forces...inflamed...try to get back on top of it... the whole thing gives me the willies.

But we asked for it, didn't we? We all wanted to know what was wrong this time. We wanted an explanation for his suddenly horrible shooting and tentative game management.

Thanks Steve.

Suns vs Thunder coverage

Welcome to Loud City

Phoenix Suns aim to cap successful road trip in Oklahoma City - Coro's preview in the AZ Republic

"We have an opportunity to have a real special trip," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of Sunday's game at Ford Center, where they won short-handed in December.

"We just need to come out and play a little reckless," Frye said. "We need to play harder and be more focused. We need to set the tone, not allow the tone to be set. We need to come out and play the way we play."


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