The Phoenix Suns took the Thunder’s best punches for three quarters, but then stumbled a bit to start the fourth and could never recover.
Russell Westbrook took over at the end of the game and the Suns had no answers.
The Suns had an 84-81 lead after three quarters, but got blasted with a 27-8 run as the Thunder began rolling and the Suns just didn’t have the answers this time.
Coach Igor Kokoskov stayed a bit too long with the second unit, but mostly it was the whole young Suns just finally succumbing to the league’s top-ranked defense playing at the league’s 5th-ranked pace.
Westbrook finished with 40 points (15 in the fourth), 12 rebounds and 8 assists.
Devin Booker got in foul trouble in that fourth quarter, and finished with 25 points (9 in the fourth), 10 assists and 7 rebounds.
Suns lose, 118-102.
Russell Westbrook came on fire, taking three of the Thunder’s first four shots, trying to impose his physical gifts on the Suns young defenders. And it worked, kind of.
Westbrook made four of his first five shots (one of them on his only miss), but Westbrook couldn’t take all shots and the Suns did not back down.
The Suns even had a 12-10 lead with Ayton going hard at the rim on finishes and the Suns playing active D like they’ve been doing the last two weeks. Booker missed his first three shots but had four assists on the Suns first five made field goals and made all three FTs on a shooting foul behind the line.
The Suns were better when Booker wasn’t trying to take every shot, but then again Booker IS the offense so it’s hard for him not to be the focal point of everything.
The Suns transition defense was poor, letting Terrance Ferguson leak out on Booker several times, partially at the fault of Booker’s misses and partially because Booker didn’t get back on defense after missing. He got caught ball-watching his own misses too much.
Somehow, when Devin Booker was 0/6 from the field while Westbrook started 7/8, the Suns were down only three. But in the final few seconds of the first quarter, the Suns second unit turned the ball over twice and the Thunder finished with a 7-point lead after one.
Thunder lead 36-29 after one, making 64% of their shots (22 of 36 points in the paint, 10 on fast breaks). Tough to win when the other team gets so many shots at the rim.
All it took was a few Thunder misses, though, in the second quarter coupled with some “he actually made it?” Josh Jackson jumpers and suddenly the Suns were back in the lead at 46-45.
Suns open up the second quarter going on a 22-11 run, and most of their damage was done without Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton on the floor.— Evan Sidery (@esidery) December 29, 2018
The Suns grabbed a 51-47 lead, but the Thunder got some deflections again and hustled their way back into the lead at 52-51. Points in the paint are now at 34 for the Thunder vs. 20 for the Suns.
Russell Westbrook has set the tone for this game going hard at the rim, and all of his teammates are doing it along with him. Thunder still at 59% shooting.
The Suns have made 5-12 threes and 8-9 free throws to stay in the game, and also have 13 assists on 19 made shots.
Somehow, the Suns survived the half of bully ball from the Thunder, who came back down to earth on their shooting, and the Thunder lead was only 58-57 at the half.
- Deandre Ayton has 10 and 7, and only had 0 points and 2 rebounds in the second quarter... yet played his best half of defense I’ve seen yet. He deterred and altered a bunch of shots at the rim and made Adams work for points.
- Devin Booker has 13 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds but made only 4 of 13 shots... yet played pretty good defense in the half court
- The triple-long trio of Oubre, Bridges and Jackson was effective defensively and made a few shots too
- T.J. Warren wasn’t a huge part of the game plan, and needs to be a bigger part of it in the second half
The Suns played well in the third quarter, taking a 82-77 lead with just over a minute left with some GREAT defense by Kelly Oubre, Jr. on Russell Westbrook and a big three by T.J. Warren.
Devin Booker was close to a triple double after three quarters — 16 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds and with the way the team is playing it looks like Booker will get most of his fourth quarter minutes as Point Book, so he might just get a career high in assists.
Only a couple turnovers — just like those at the end of the first quarter — gave the Thunder life again.
The Suns led 84-81 after three. Thunder down to 48% shooting on the game (from 64% in that first quarter).
The Thunder started the 4th quarter on a 9-2 run with Dennis Schroder making his first three of the game as well as a couple of short jumpers, while the Suns missed several long jumpers of their own.
Igor brought back Booker and Ayton, but left T.J. Warren on the bench and a hobbling Jamal Crawford in the game... and the Thunder extended their lead to 99-88 with Booker drawing fouls 4 and 5.
It’s a big problem with De’Anthony Melton having a bad game, Jamal Crawford hobbling and De’Andre Ayton somehow disappearing after that 10/5 first quarter.
The Thunder are just super-super aggressive and eventually the tide turned for good in their favor. They started getting all the loose balls, all the 50/50 plays, fouls called in their favor.
In the fourth quarter, Schroder (32%) and Westbrook (25%) made three threes between them.
Was a really good game for a long time there.