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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.