Suns vs. Thunder Game Preview: It's Go Time!

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 30: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns drives the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA game at US Airways Center on March 30, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Thunder defeated the Suns 116-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

On the surface, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a clearly superior team to the Phoenix Suns. Currently #2 in the Western Conference, 1/2 game behind the Spurs for #1 with a 44-17 record, the Thunder defeated the Suns by 10 on New Year's Eve and then by 11 last month. Kevin Durant is a league MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook averages over 24PPG and the Thunder have the #1 offensive rating in the league.

But these teams aren't so mismatched when we look at how they've been playing recently. Chew on this, Suns fans: Phoenix has a better record since the All-Star break (18-9) than the Thunder do (17-10). At what point does the sample size become large enough to say that the Suns are a legitimately good team? A win tonight would certainly go a long way to proving the Suns belong as a playoff team, and that they might be one the contenders won't want to face.

US Airways Center had better be rocking tonight because the Suns have played so well over the last couple of months that they've earned this critically meaningful game in mid-April. All five teams remaining on the Suns schedule have winning records and two of them are championship contenders, but the Suns are capable of beating each of them, and it starts with this test tonight.



Of course, there is danger in thin-slicing results too much. When the Suns and Thunder last met March 7th in OKC, the Suns led 84-68 midway through the third quarter before an epic Suns collapse/Thunder run clinched a 115-104 Thunder win. As Alex explained in his recap:

The Suns built the lead back up in the third quarter to a full 16 points - an 84-68 lead! - before the wheels came off and the Thunder came to life, finishing the game on a 47-20 run. Phoenix countered MVP-candidate Kevin Durant and Sixth-Man candidate James Harden with the likes of Sebastian Telfair and Michael Redd. Ugh. Double ugh. How do the Suns expect to win with that matchup going on???

A six-point Suns 4th-quarter lead turned into an 8-point Thunder lead in the blink of an eye. Poof. The Suns chances were gone. All it took was a few minutes of Durant/Harden vs. Telfair/Redd.

What to take from that game? The big lead earned early, or the late collapse? Both, of course, and an explosive team like the Thunder will have runs in it. And it wasn't just the Suns defense that was the problem, as their offense went completely stagnant down the stretch when they simply couldn't make a shot.

Key for the Suns tonight will be to stem the tide if/when the Thunder start sizzling. Slow down the pace on offense and get good shots, take it inside and draw fouls. The Thunder will score a lot, there's probably no getting around that. It will be up to the Suns to execute smoothly on offense down the stretch and make key stops on the defensive end. They will probably have to do this without the services of Grant Hill:

Apparently, the Suns would rather rest Hill tonight and let other players, primarily Dudley and Childress, deal with Durant, and have Hill back to guard Chris Paul tomorrow night. Note that the Suns struggled mightily with Hill out due to foul trouble in the previous meeting, so this is definitely cause for concern. They'll have to avoid Durant badly exploiting mismatches as he did in March.

In happier news:

It will be interesting to see what kind of support Gentry gets for COY. On the one hand, will voters give much consideration to a coach of a slightly above average, fringe playoff team? But then, all of these NBA "experts" who have been bloviating all season about how the Suns were a terrible team have to give credit for the coach who turned them around, right? A playoff berth would help his cause, that's for sure.

Get fired up for this one, Suns fans! This would be a landmark win for this season's Suns.

For more exclusive content, follow us on Twitter @Brightsidesun and "Like" us on Facebook.


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 61 38.4 9.7 19.4 50.1 1.9 5.2 37.5 6.3 7.4 85.2 0.6 7.2 7.9 3.5 3.7 1.4 1.2 2.0 27.8
Russell Westbrook 61 35.4 9.0 19.3 46.4 1.0 3.0 32.8 5.1 6.2 82.2 1.4 3.1 4.5 5.4 3.7 1.7 0.2 2.2 24.1
James Harden 59 31.6 4.8 10.1 48.2 1.8 4.7 38.4 4.9 5.9 83.7 0.5 3.6 4.1 3.7 2.2 0.9 0.3 2.5 16.4
Serge Ibaka 61 27.0 3.8 7.2 52.9 0.0 0.0 100.0 1.2 1.9 67.3 3.0 4.7 7.7 0.4 1.2 0.5 3.6 2.7 8.9
Derek Fisher 58 24.2 2.0 5.5 36.7 0.6 1.7 32.7 0.9 1.1 83.6 0.2 1.8 1.9 2.8 1.2 0.8 0.1 1.9 5.5
Daequan Cook 52 17.6 1.9 5.2 36.2 1.4 4.1 33.6 0.2 0.3 62.5 0.2 2.0 2.2 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.2 1.2 5.3
Thabo Sefolosha 37 21.0 1.6 3.7 44.2 0.8 1.6 45.9 0.9 1.0 89.5 0.5 2.4 2.9 1.0 0.8 0.9 0.4 1.8 5.0
Kendrick Perkins 60 26.7 1.9 3.9 48.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.8 64.2 1.8 4.7 6.5 1.2 1.8 0.4 1.1 2.9 4.9
Nick Collison 58 20.6 1.9 3.2 60.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 0.9 69.1 1.8 2.6 4.4 1.3 1.0 0.5 0.4 2.4 4.5
Eric Maynor 9 15.1 1.6 4.3 35.9 0.7 1.9 35.3 0.4 0.4 100.0 0.3 1.1 1.4 2.4 1.2 0.6 0.0 1.4 4.2
Reggie Jackson 45 11.1 1.1 3.5 32.1 0.3 1.4 21.0 0.6 0.6 86.2 0.3 0.9 1.2 1.6 0.8 0.6 0.0 0.7 3.1
Nazr Mohammed 58 11.1 1.3 2.8 46.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 56.5 0.9 1.8 2.7 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.6 1.6 2.8
Royal Ivey 31 10.6 0.8 2.1 37.9 0.6 1.6 36.7 0.0 0.3 12.5 0.0 0.7 0.7 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.0 1.0 2.2
Cole Aldrich 25 6.3 0.8 1.6 52.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.4 90.0 0.5 1.3 1.8 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.6 0.7 2.0
Lazar Hayward 25 5.4 0.5 1.5 34.2 0.2 0.6 28.6 0.3 0.5 58.3 0.1 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.7 1.5

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bright Side Of The Sun

You must be a member of Bright Side Of The Sun to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bright Side Of The Sun. You should read them.

Join Bright Side Of The Sun

You must be a member of Bright Side Of The Sun to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bright Side Of The Sun. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker