The Phoenix Suns once again played some spirited basketball, but were unable to have their offense keep up with Oklahoma City's, falling 122-106.
The Suns scored on their first 15 possessions in the second quarter, but did not take the lead in the game despite that nearly flawless run of offense.
A couple of scuffles seemed to pump up the Thunder in the second half and while it never seemed like they went above third gear, three straight makes by Kevin Durant pushed their lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter and the Suns offense finally began to stall out.
The Suns were never going to maintain that type of efficiency on offense, while the Thunder made shooting around 50 percent in the game look fairly easy. Phoenix took a big step by hanging around in this game until nearly the end, but dagger threes from Dion Waiters and Durant with under five minutes to go effectively ended the game. Durant had 25 points in the second half.
Here are the game notes:
Markieff Morris is taking advantage of some solid matchups early on. Despite being a great defender, Serge Ibaka is a little bit too slow for him, ditto for Adams and Kevin Durant isn't a good enough defender to compensate for a lack of strength. Ibaka had a beautifully defended possession to open up the game and Morris drained the jumper anyway. That seemed to get Morris perked up.
Two times down Archie Goodwin and Tyson Chandler did a nifty semi-transition delayed ball screen where Archie stalled on the baseline, popped up the other side and Chandler had Russell Westbrook switched to him on the original side of the screen. That's very good scouting from whoever picked that up in the film.
Westbrook might be the worst matchup for the Suns in the entire league. He's had success nearly every time the Thunder have got any type of runout and the Suns are way too poor in that department for a supreme athlete and passer like Westbrook for them not to get shredded. It also helps that the Suns are essentially allowing Durant inside the three-point line and dictate where he wants to score.
Another Suns and Thunder scrap. This time it's Ibaka and Morris. There was about 1.25 seconds where someone escalated it and it looked like someone was going to throw a punch. Never got to that point though.
The Suns opened the quarter by really attacking the Nick Collison matchup with Mirza Teletovic. He scored three straight field goals and had two trips to the line so I guess it worked out. That pumped up the bench and brought the lead down to seven. There's a little problem, however, in that Westbrook and Durant were both resting during the run. Donovan ended the first quarter with just Durant in from the starters while Watson still had Morris, Booker and Tucker in the game. That wasn't a very good trade-off and Westbrook entered back into the game after Teletovic's second trip to the line. Good rotation work by Billy Donovan.
So, uh, the Suns were within three with 3:44 left in the second quarter and that's because they scored on EVERY SINGLE POSSESSION in the quarter. 14 straight possessions with a score. I've never seen something like that before and it's from the 14-win Suns. P.J. just made it 15 on an ISO. What is going on?!?! A Goodwin possession with the clock running down ended the run. It's worth noting that the Suns NEVER got the lead because of this run. Madness.
At 71-70 with 6:13 left, the Suns are easily having their best offensive performance of the season since Eric Bledsoe went down and they are only up one point. Chandler set a hard screen on Dion Waiters and after about five seconds of staying down and holding his head and neck, Waiters shot up as if he realized what had happened and went after Chandler. He then went right back to holding his neck and head. That's our second serious scuffle of the game and fifth or sixth time there's been a serious level of "I don't like you very much good sir" type of deal in the game. It's worth noting that two biiiig security folks crept onto the court from the Suns side as soon as Waiters shot up like that. I've never seen that before.
That increased tick of energy from the opposing team that lets them takeover the game still hasn't happened yet. Durant in particular isn't really doing much on either end. He keeps settling for shots behind the three-point line and Westbrook has taken only one or shots in the key to this point. The Suns energy is at an all-time high and with the good looks they keep getting on offense, they might stick around in this game.
Booker makes an incredible behind the back pass in transition and Durant finally decides to see what it's like to get the ball near the free throw line. That's followed by a gorgeous and-1 from Waiters and a Durant three. It would be a big time improvement from the Suns to hang around in this game after working so hard to only barely lead.
That aforementioned rut from Durant ended. He made three straight baskets and brought the Thunder lead to 10. Teletovic finally started missing, the crowd died and that seemed to do it. Westbrook checked back in 9:43 to go and a 10-point lead. Watson responded by bringing back Booker, Chandler and Morris and had already brought Goodwin back in before the end of the third quarter.
A dagger corner three from Waiters with just under five minutes to go kills off any sort of run the Suns were making at the game.
The Suns didn't quite receive the message on the first dagger so Durant had a second one with about 20 seconds left on the shot clock and from about 28 feet with 3:05 to go. He's good. A third dagger on a double team just to please the fans chanting "OKC" with 1:30 to go was a nice touch and Durant went from being 5-13 to 11-21. 25 second-half points.