The Phoenix Suns came roaring out of the gate in a game they HAD to win to stay in the playoff race. They got up 54-34 on the Thunder by halfway through the second quarter, and the rout was on. The offense looked fluid, and the defense was focused.
The rout was on all right. Just not in the Suns favor.
The Thunder, behind Russell Westbrook, came back to tie up the game late in the third period and then an onslaught of broken-play threes and fast break layups by the Thunder's second unit stole the show.
The Thunder's second unit made five threes in the opening minutes of the fourth to lay the boom on the Suns, putting the Thunder up 12 (85-73) before they knew what hit them.
The rest of the game was just playing out the string.
And now the Thunder have a 4-game lead on the Suns in the playoff race with just 8 games to go.
That's the season, folks.
Let's recap the young guys:
- In good news, T.J. Warren had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 29 minutes, and Alex Len had 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in 25 minutes.
- In bad news, Brandon Knight went missed 9 of 10 shots before re-rolling his ankle, and Archie Goodwin did his best Gerald Green impression that got the Thunder started on their onslaught in the 4th.
The Suns came out focused. You never know what you're going to get with this team, and tonight they came out ready to execute. Markieff Morris scored the Suns first 11 points on a variety of shots.
They had assists on 9 of their first 11 field goals. This is the SUNS here. Bledsoe was passing and distributing well. Marcus and P.J. Tucker played hard and stayed within themselves.
And the OKC "fours" really didn't have enough lateral quickness to stay with the Suns quickness. All around, it was quite a start for the Suns.
At this point, I remind you that the Thunder are the league's 28th rated defense over the last 12 games. And in this one they are making the Suns look like a juggernaut.
Suns up 35 to 24 after one.
Markieff Morris led the Suns with 16 of their 35 points. Marcus had 4 points, 5 rebounds. Bledsoe had 4 assists.
The Suns kept pouring it on in the second, starting it off with a 13-5 run to take a 48-30 lead behind T.J. Warren's scoring and Brandon Knight's playmaking.
The Suns lead got up to 54-34 after what was called a "common" foul on Russell Westbrook who took down Marcus Morris on a fast break drive.
Then, on the next play, Brandon Knight blocked a D.J. Augustin three-point attempt, except that 2/3 of the way to the basket the ref blew his whistle and called the three-shot foul. A play later, Westbrook made a three and the Suns lead was back down to 14.
Westbrook barrelled into Bledsoe on the next possession for another delayed foul call and it was a 12 point game. He got a couple more scores (mostly on foul calls) and it got down to an 8-point halftime lead.
Suns up 62-54 at halftime.
Marcus Morris had 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Markieff had 20 points, 2 rebounds. Alex Len had 9 big rebounds, 2 blocked shots. Eric Bledsoe had 6 assists, but 4 turnovers.
Russell Westbrook had 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Both teams opened sloppy, but Bledsoe got a nice midrange jumper and then the Thunder made a couple of jumpers to briefly cut the Suns lead to five.
The Suns went into an awful shooting funk, starting the quarter 4 for 18, including 0 for 10 in one stretch, to allow the Thunder to tie the game at 71-71.
After a quick basket, T.J. Warren got a couple of nice hustle buckets (with T.J. is there any other kind?) to help the Suns build the lead back up and take a 79-76 lead into the fourth quarter.
That's really all we need to say about the third quarter.
Well, this started real bad with the Thunder scoring four straight points to take the lead, but then T.J. did it again with a "where'd he come from?" bucket at the rim.
Archie was out of control - kind of a 6'5" Gerald Green - trying to get 20 points a minute. D.J. Augustin picked his pocket to open the quarter and after that Archie was all about showing up Augustin, which didn't go that well. Archie got a score on one one-man fast break, but failed to score the next time, had another turnover and gave up points on the other end by overplaying.
The Thunder had a 85-83 lead and Archie was done.
Then the Thunder kept making their kick-out threes and quickly the lead was 12.
That escalated quickly.