The Phoenix Suns came out with energy and kept the game close through the first half by not turning the ball over, but they couldn’t stop committing fouls and then lost their composure to start the second half.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Suns went on an unexpected run to pull within six points, 95-89, on a pair of pretty Devin Booker assists to T.J. Warren.
But then a pair of Steven Adams strong finishes at the rim (offensive rebound put back, then an and-one finish) put the Thunder with the lead back to 11. Paul George capped it with a deep three after a pair of Booker free throws. The game stayed at eight to 11 points the rest of the way.
Deandre Ayton played a strong game against the behemoth Steven Adams, but Paul George seemed to suck the life out of Devin Booker with engulfing defense while owning Booker on the other end whenever possible.
George dominated the game on both ends, while Steven Adams dominated the paint. George had 32 points and 11 rebounds with 3 each of blocks and steals, while Adams had 26 and 10.
The Thunder have won 9 of their last 10 games — three of them over the Suns — while the Suns drop to 3-12 before embarking on a long road trip through the Thanksgiving holiday.
Devin Booker had 18 points on 16 shots against George, though he had 11 assists against only one turnover — his second straight double double.
Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 9 rebounds, while T.J. Warren had 23 with 5 rebounds and Mikal Bridges had 14 points and 4 steals with 2 each of rebounds/assists/blocks.
Russell Westbrook did not, in fact, return for the game against the Suns. Terrence Ferguson was out as well.
For the Suns, Trevor Ariza still is out for personal (family) issues.
Mikal Bridges started in Ariza’s place, while T.J. Warren still starting in Ryan Anderson’s place. I feel like that means Anderson is “out” too.
Hamidou Diallo and Jerami Grant had the starts for the Thunder in Westbrook and Ferguson’s place.
Suns played a really engaged, strong half against the Thunder, who were just making shots while the Suns were still just struggling to make their own.
They were going after lobs to Ayton at the rim, tossing them with more energy and Ayton was catching them. Otherwise, Ayton was catching and shooting in the mid-post, not really attacking Khal Drogo. He had 10 shots by mid-second quarter for 10 points (5-10 shooting).
The Suns had a couple of periods where they just couldn’t buy a bucket, even the open ones.
Paul George had the assignment on Booker all night. George, if you recall, is 6’10” and was considered one of the best defenders in basketball. Booker still looks slow and low to me, and I’d heard last week he was nursing back pain. Not sure that’s still happening, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
At the half, the Suns were down 47-42 — a major accomplishment, I think, considering they shot only 37% from the field in the half. They held the Thunder to 38% themselves. The difference being the Thunder’s 14 first half free throws (11-14) to the Suns’ mere six attempts (3-6).
- Deandre Ayton, 10 points (5/12 shooting), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
- Devin Booker, 8 points (3/9 shooting), 3 assists, 2 rebounds
- T.J. Warren, 9 points (4/10 shooting), 3 rebounds, 1 assist
- Steven Adams and Paul George each had 11 points for the Thunder
The Suns tried to go through Ayton again and scored once out of two times, while the Thunder scored in his area both times (on a drive, then a lob finish).
With the Suns being unable to shoot at all from the outside, feeding to Ayton is the best way to get a score.
The Thunder started the second half with a 17-4 run to stretch their five-point halftime lead to 18 and suddenly the game looked like it might get out of reach.
Suns are having a real tough time with the Thunder’s length all the way around from point guard to center, unable to get any open looks except for pick and roll lobs. And they went COLD from three. I mean, freezing. Started 1-8 from the field in the third. Ouch.
Lack of energy seems to be the main problem here. Not forcing the action to create strong looks. It’s like they all thought they had a good first half.
The Suns subbed in Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson to get some new life back, and went on an 8-0 run before Jerami Grant had a three-point play.
The Suns kept it around 10 for a while with that new display of energy, but a lineup that included none of Booker, Warren or Ayton was doomed to failure, especially when the Thunder kept playing Paul George. PG was just too much in this game. Too much.
At the end of three, the score was 79-65, Thunder.
Paul George had 22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Like I said, too much.
The Suns are shooting only 39% from the field. Only one Suns player is shooting even 50% from the field on more than one shot attempt: Isaiah Canaan, at exactly 50% on six shots.
The Suns started the fourth quarter a bit better (Thunder had all bench guys out there), and got the lead down to 11 before Billy Donovan called a frustrated timeout.
The Thunder quickly went on a 5-0 run and never looked back.