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Preview: Suns start new month with rematch against the Thunder

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The Phoenix Suns try to extend their inexplicable winning streak over the Thunder to four games.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Oklahoma City Thunder

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Home, Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Phoenix Suns are tired of setting new records for futility, and finally they did something about it.

Already, they’ve set a 50-year franchise record for 40+ point losses in a single season (4), largest margin of defeat on opening night in franchise history (48 points) and largest margin of defeat in first three games of the season (92 points) on the way to extending the franchise-long playoff drought (8 seasons). Oh, and by the way, in 49 prior seasons the Suns had only lost by 40+ points a TOTAL of 4 times. In 49 seasons. This year’s team has doubled that count in one season.

They’ve even commemorated their 50th season with multiple home court 50-point deficits, most recently getting down 100-50 to the Spurs in the third quarter a couple weeks ago. /facepalm

So they didn’t need to add “first winless month” in 50 years. Thanks, Grizz.

The Suns snapped a 10-game March losing streak after beating the Memphis Grizzlies on the final night of February. Just like the 15-16 Suns did in their first month under Earl Watson.

Now the Suns have to fight through another two months of this lost season without tacking a “winless month” onto their ignominious record setting season.

It starts tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (36-27)

The Thunder are duking it out these last six weeks with no fewer than eight other teams for a playoff spot in the West. The top two seeds in the are locked in (Warriors, Spurs), but the last six playoff spots are being contested by eight teams all within a five wins of each other (33-38) with the Jazz lurking just behind them at 31 wins, and just about 20 games to go in the season for each team.

Every game matters. No game is a throw away.

So don’t expect the Thunder to just roll the ball out and expect a win over the lowly Suns. They will be focused and ready to close out the win just like the Jazz and Pelicans did this week after getting down to the Suns by 15 and 17 points, respectively.

Paul George has been balling over the last 10 games, with averages of 25.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game, while shooting almost 42% on threes.

Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double over that same span, while Steven Adams is the enforcer in the middle and Carmelo Anthony is playing a good fourth-fiddle.

As a team, the Thunder are the best in the game at offensive rebounding and forcing opponent turnovers, the kind of hustle stats that win games despite a weird roster.

They really miss Andre Roberson on defense though, and will be hard-pressed to go deep in the playoffs without his wing defense.

The Suns (19-44)

Hey there. What do you expect when the Suns most common starting lineup these days includes a 20-year old (Dragan Bender), a pair of 21-year olds (Josh Jackson and Devin Booker) and a couple of veteran 24-year olds (T.J. Warren and Elfrid Payton) in just their fourth NBA season.

The Suns have the youngest playing rotation in the league, maybe NBA history, with another three first round picks coming this June. They just have to hope that the Timeline produces 2-3 All-Stars before the owner gets antsy enough to overpay a lot of middling talent to fight for that 8-seed again.

Devin Booker appears to be a future perennial All-Star, and lately Josh Jackson has shown the talent and drive to potentially join him some day. Then, this summer their top-5 pick could round out the core before the Suns go back to adding veterans to stabilize the rotation.

Booker and Jackson have been stuffing the box score, but we have to recognize the contributions of guard Shaquille Harrison, who’s collected 4 steals in 2 of the 4 games he’s played in the NBA. His energy helped the Suns keep their lead over the lowly Grizzlies on Wednesday night, so he will be needed to bring that energy every game going forward.

In the meantime, all the Suns really need to do is lose most every game but not EVERY game. They don’t need to add “winless month” to the list of sad stories.

Matchups

One of the Suns signature wins this year came over the Thunder in OKC, winning 114-100. And the Thunder didn’t even sit anyone!

In that game, Dragan Bender (career high 20 points, 6-8 threes) and Josh Jackson (17 points) were hot off the bench in support of T.J. Warren and Devin Booker’s starting contributions.

Remember, the Suns are 13-17 season with Chandler, Warren and Booker all in the lineup, and that night they were. Tonight, however, both Warren and Chandler are questionable. So it will be up to the kiddies to bring home a win. Unfortunately, the Suns are 6-27 in games at least one of Booker/Chandler/Warren are out. /sigh

One of the things I’d like to see is how good/bad Jackson would be in trying to defend Westbrook with his length and quickness (like Derrick Jones Jr. did last year) and then taking a turn on All-Star Paul George. Jackson has been a defensive sieve this season, so I’m not expecting anything good to come of it. But he’s got the talent and athleticism and drive to become a top defender some day, so why not start right now?

Prediction

The Suns have upcoming March games against the Hawks, Heat, Hornets and Magic, so it’s nor the end of the world to lose to a focused OKC team.

Maybe this isn’t “the March win” we’re looking for. But who knows, maybe it is.

After embarrassing themselves on their home court last Friday night, getting down 19-0 before finally putting points on the board against the middling Clippers, the Suns have played three spirited road games.

Let’s see if they can show appreciation to the fans who paid to watch THEM play basketball, and maybe just maybe showing that appreciation by putting out great effort.