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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns host Thunder, record-seeking Westbrook

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Russell Westbrook could break Oscar Robertson’s 2000-year record for triple-doubles in a season with 42. The Suns are a great opponent for that.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (22-57) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-33)

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


There’s actually a very good reason to watch the Phoenix Suns hurtle toward their 14th straight loss and 58th overall in the 2016-17 season.

Russell Westbrook, who has averaged 41.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 13.7 assists in three games against the Suns this season (two triple doubles), needs ONE MORE triple double to set a new league record of 42 triple doubles in a single 82-game season.

WOW.

Do you need any other reason to watch history being made?

Yes, you do?

Okay, let’s continue the preview then.

The non-triple-double loss

Westbrook came up one assist short of a triple double against the Suns in a game this season, the only game won by the Suns, 118-111.

This Suns win was the baloney in a 3-game winning streak sandwich that forced the front office to bench Bledsoe for the season because he was spurring too many undesirable outcomes.

Russ had “only” 48 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists in 38 minutes. He was personally a +10 in the minutes he played, which means his teammates were -17 in the 10 minutes he sat down.

The Suns had 6 players score 14-18 points in their 20th win of the season. Since that game, the Suns have lost 16 of 18 games and now have taken over 2nd in the reverse standings.

The Thunder

Russ has led the Thunder all by himself into the playoffs this season, nestling them safely into the 6th seed in the West - three games behind the 5th seed and three ahead of the 8th with three to play.

C.J. McCollum predicted this last summer when KD left.

Westbrook is averaging: 31.8 points, 10.4 assists, 10.7 rebounds per game.

Nice call, C.J.

The only reason Russ even plays in this game is because he wants the triple-double record, which was set by Oscar Robertson a couple thousand years ago at 41 in a season.

What happens to the Thunder in the playoffs? Who knows. A year after nearly making the NBA Finals behind the Durant/Westbrook “who ya gonna guard, huh?” pairing, now Russ goes into a world famous for shutting down that one star individual and forcing role players to win games.

Who’s going to win playoff games for the Thunder if it’s not Russ? Can Russ transcend focused defenses in a 7-game series, like a LeBron can?

The Suns

Meanwhile, the Suns are cooking up a formula that everyone likes and hates at the same time.

Coaches and players hate that they get down 10-20 every single first quarter. They LOVE that the young Suns take that punch and come back to make it game by the third or fourth quarter. And then they hate ultimately wilting under crunch time pressure since Bledsoe was put on the bench.

Fans get to enjoy the games, as long as they don’t stress over the opening quarter too much. In fact, I think the fans are having more fun, collectively, this spring than I’ve seen in years. These young Suns are fun to watch fight back, and even take the lead at times, after overcoming 15-25 point deficits.

Derrick Jones Jr. and Marquese Chriss throw at least one vicious dunk apiece each game. Tyler Ulis lobs at least one ahh-inspiring “oop” each night. Devin Booker makes at least one long three, gets hot at least one quarter each night.

Come on out to watch - it’s really not as bad as you might think a team on a 13-game losing streak might look.

Prediction

The usual.

Which means a fun look at Westbrook setting that triple-double record, while the Suns battle and ultimately lose in the waning minutes.

A perfect night.