Suns outclassed by Thunder in final contest of 2012, lose 114-96

Westbrook got off after first half stitches - Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns and Thunder met on New Year's Eve for the second time in two years and the result was the same as the Thunder pulled ahead late and turned the game into a bench clearing blowout.

Recap:

The Suns started strong against the Thunder with Oklahoma City yielding perimeter shots and the Suns canning them. The lethargy that has been apparent at the beginning of many games this season was delightfully absent with the Suns giving the Thunder fits on the defensive end early. P.J. Tucker, in particular, played aggravating defense and held Kevin Durant to 2-8 shooting. Despite the promising start, and Tucker's outstanding D, the Thunder picked up steam as the period progressed and ended up shooting 54.2% in the quarter. The Suns countered with their own blistering shooting, 57.9%, but trailed 32-28 at the end of one.

The Suns continued to hang with Oklahoma City in the second quarter as Morris, O'Neal and Telfair all made their presence felt. In fact, every Sun that played contributed with the exception of Shannon Brown. In a testament to that, the Suns ended the half with eight players scoring between four and nine points. The Suns held the Thunder to 36.8% shooting in the quarter. Durant led all scorers with 12 points, but Tucker vexed him into 4-11 shooting. Russell Westbrook left the game at the 1:13 mark, most likely to get stitches, after an inadvertent elbow from Luis Scola. An overall solid half of basketball by the Suns resulted in them trailing by just one point, 54-53.

The Thunder started the third quarter on a 12-0 run, as Phoenix appeared listless and languid to start the period. They recovered from their brief slumber to keep the game within single digits for most of the quarter. Luis Scola, on the tails of his 33 point effort, was the Suns focal point on offense with 14 points in the third. Russell Westbrook, all stitched up, countered with 12 for the Thunder. The Suns trailed 84-78 at the end of three.

The Suns couldn't quite seem to gain traction at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It wasn't so much that they played particularly poorly, but they were unable to close the gap. Then they did play poorly and the Thunder put them out of their misery. A close game through three quarters turned into a laugher that was finished off by the end of the Thunder's bench. The 30-18 fourth quarter was the fifth time in six games where the Suns have been outclassed in the final period.

Thunder win 114-96.

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Player of the Game:

Russell Westbrook. He recovered from a blow that required stitches to carry the Thunder during a decisive stretch of the game. He finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and nine assists and dominated the point guard matchup.

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Comments of the Game:

Goran's really going at Westbrook.

I love it.

Yep, it's a matchup of who flails their arms to get calls.

Goran is winning.

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Jermaine has played much better than I thought he would.

He was positively corpsified all those years ago.

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Hey! If we keep it this close...

Maybe we can see a new way to throw away the game at the end.

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We're at the point with this site where we need a serious font.

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3rd quarter just on par for the Suns.

Gentry's halftime talks must be depressing.

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Oh right, now I remember.

The Thunder let you hang around for a while, then bury you in an avalanche of scoring at some point in the game.

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If you were to graph his (Brown's) season performance,

You'd get a sine wave.

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Dragic looked very confident and aggressive initially, but has since disappeared in an all too familiar way.

I still question his mental make-up.

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The Good:

The Suns were more spirited out of the gate than in many of their recent games. The defense was again lacking, but a more ebullient effort was readily apparent.

Tucker's individual defense on Durant was outstanding. He made him work for everything and Durant was visibly irritated by the constant pressure. Durant finished with 30 on 11-24 shooting, but Tucker made him earn them. Maybe Tucker will adopt the Grant Hill/Shawn Marion role of guarding the opposing team's most dangerous threat.

Scola continued his torrid scoring with 24 points on 10-17 shooting.

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The Bad:

The Suns forgot to come out ready to play after the intermission. A whole half of inspired basketball was undone in a few minutes. The Suns got back in the game, but these types of lapses happen all too frequently.

After a good start to the game, Dragic got owned by Westbrook for most of the night. Dragic had a couple meaningless buckets after the Thunder emptied the bench, but he was basically a non-factor after the first quarter.

Shannon Brown was a ghost. What the hell happened to him? He didn't even pull the cannon act... His net contribution to the game was the same as mine.

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The Ugly:

Fourth quarter meltdowns are the Suns specialty. This time they collapsed a little bit earlier and didn't keep us in suspense until the closing minutes. Maybe we should all start turning the game off at the start of the fourth and just pretend that the Suns won...

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Final Thoughts:

The Thunder is a much better team than the Suns. Much better. The Suns fought hard for most of the night, but it comes as no surprise that Oklahoma City triumphed. Have a happy, healthy 2013 Brightsiders!

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