The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, ready to start a new winning streak
The Bad Guys: The Oklahoma City Thunder, who will never be as cool as the Seattle Supersonics
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
When: 6:00 PM Arizona time
The Tube: Fox Sports AZ
The Phoenix Suns saw their six-game winning streak come to an end as they couldn't find enough late-game buckets to steal a win in the Big Easy, falling to the Pelicans 110-106. They have no time to sulk, as the always formidable Thunder await. The last meeting between these two was over almost as soon as it begun, as the Suns got smacked like a red-headed stepchild, 112-88.
Goran Dragic was out with a back injury, but it's hard to believe he would've made a dent. The Suns never stood a chance.
But like the sleazy gal told Forrest Gump in that dive bar on New Year's Eve, "everybody gets a second chance". Let's hope she knew what she was talking about (something tells me she had a plethora of second chances in her time), because a repeat of the last humiliation would take much of the luster out of the recent wins.
As if there isn't enough motivation to show up tonight, it's never to early to consider playoff implications in the West and the Suns are currently the closest available target if the Thunder want to leapfrog their way into the top 8.
|Phoenix Suns||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|G - Eric Bledsoe||G - Russell Westbrook|
|G - Goran Dragic||G - Andre Roberson|
|F - P.J. Tucker||F - Kevin Durant|
|F - Markieff Morris||F - Serge Ibaka|
|C - Alex Len||
C - Steven Adams
As of 8:00 PM Tuesday night, Kevin Durant is said to be "likely" to return from a brief injury hiatus tonight, which obviously does not bode well for the Suns. P.J. Tucker will again be tasked with slowing him down, and hopefully will fare better than he did in the last meeting, when Durant scored 23 points in 24 minutes.
The Thunder are still waiting for their season to truly kick into gear with a healthy Durant after a few false starts. Durant has only managed to play in 9 games on the season at 28.2 MPG, so there aren't many meaningful conclusions to be drawn from their first 32 games.
One thing that hasn't changed without Durant is the Thunder's defense, ranked 5th overall. They also are still searching for that third complementary scorer to fill the void left by the James Harden trade in 2012. Reggie Jackson can do amazing things, but is inefficient. Perry Jones was raw as a prospect and still hasn't seasoned, even with the recent opportunities afforded by injury. Anthony Morrow is a deadeye shooter, but not much else. Jeremy Lamb has failed to make the Harden trade look any better in hindsight.
But I'm sure everyone in Oklahoma City is happy that they didn't have to pay that luxury tax.
Their only salvation was the draft pick that became Steven Adams, who at 21 looks to be a legitimate starting center and has finally sent Kendrick Perkins to the bench. In addition to his bruising style of play underneath, Adams has also developed a knack for getting under the skin of his peers.
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With Durant in the lineup, everyone knows what they're getting with the Thunder. They're going to defend well and let Westbrook and Durant do a bunch of amazing stuff and shoot a ton of freethrows. It sounds simple. It is simple. And usually, it works.
Tucker versus Durant is always compelling, and Len versus Adams in a battle of 21-year-old big men should have some interesting moments, but I'm giving the nod to Bledsoe versus Westbrook. Russ won the last one emphatically with 28 points on 18 shots in 26 minutes, going a ridiculous 13-13 from the freethrow line. He also added 8 rebounds and 8 assists.
Bledsoe, on the other hand, shot 4/12 for 12 points. No bueno. Look for him to be a bit more of a factor this time around, and hopefully limit Russ to less than a freethrow attempt every 2.2 minutes.
Just make this one competitive, please. Eat some spinach or something.
And if you're like me and still miss the Sonics, enjoy Sir Charles bending Shawn Kemp over his knee and giving him the belt back in 1993. 44 points and 24 rebounds in a WCF game 7!
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See you after the game. Go Suns!