As the Covid outbreak continues in the NBA, things can get weird. After warming up with the team, Elfird Payton was ruled out of the game due to H/S protocols. Nader joined him on the protocols, even though he was already out due to injury management. The Suns were still without starters Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder.
For the Thunder side, Derrick Favors had been ruled out, but was a last minute addition to the team after clearing protocols - much like Payton did on the game against Memphis.
Most notably, however, for the Thunder was SGAs absence due to an ankle soreness, making way for Ty Jerome to become the Suns biggest problem. He scored a new career high 24 points on his former team, to go along 8 boards and 5 assists. Aaron Wiggins also had 22 and 8 for OKC, but none of that was enough as the Suns put the Thunder away in the fourth.
On a busier than expected night for the Suns, Booker exploded past 10,000 career points as he tied his season high 38 points; Mikal grabbed his 1000th career rebound; and Jalen Smith had a career high in rebounds as he closed the night with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Also, Cam Payne finally bounced back with 16 points, McGee was finally able to stay on the floor to score 16 of his own and Cam Johnson extended his double digit scoring streak to 17 games, finishing this one with 12 after playing only 7 first half minutes due to foul trouble.
In the end, despite the game proving a lot more challenging than expected, the Phoenix Suns were in front for most of it and pulled away late in the fourth to win 115-97.
Book gets the first shot from mid-range and misses but is found for an wide open catch and shoot three on the next possession to start the game. With the next shot, a mid-range over Dort, Devin crossed the 10,000 points threshold - the 7th youngest in NBA history. The Suns offense is able to execute except for a couple of costly turnovers that allow the Thunder to take the lead 8-7 right after that on two free throws from Ty Jerome.
The Suns and OKC keep trading baskets until a beautiful ball movement play finds Bridges open in the corner for three. The Suns then are able to force a turnover and Cam Johnson scores on the fast break, opening a 4 point lead. Ty Jerome gets back and finds another open shot for his third field goal of the night and Kevin Young has seen enough of the laxed defense and decides to call a time-out.
Jalen Smith checks in for McGee after the time-out and the Suns are able to open a five point lead, but a tough three by Dort and another turnover still has OKC within two and with the possession as it’s Mike Milks turn to call time-out with 5:04 left to go. Cam Johnson picks up his 2nd foul after the time-out and Chandler Hutchinson checks in for him, along side Payne and Shamet. Both teams trade basket until Shamet, Payne and Stix are able to impact the game and the Suns close the quarter on an 11 with a 10 point lead, up 33-23.
OKC is able to hit two quick shots as the quarter opens, but the teams keep trading shots and turnovers until Kevin Young decides to call his second time-out with 8:16 left and the Suns up 42-34. The Suns offense grows stagnant and OKC makes a run. Booker, Smith and Cam Johnson check back in, but Johnson immediately picks his 3rd foul in 7 minutes and Shamet comes back.
Suns defense keeps allowing drives to the basket and Shamet misses a few shots, allowing the Thunder to come within one, but CP3 is able to get a steal and Booker is fouled on the fast break and goes 1-2 on the FT line. One the following possession, as Dort tries another drive, but Smith finally reads the play resulting in a great block and a time-out for OKC, with 2:47 to go and a two point lead for the Suns.
The Suns go on a quick 10-4 run out of the time-out, including two threes from Booker and quickly the Suns recover a more comfortable lead as the quarter ends with a 60-52 lead. Booker has 23 points and CP3 has 8 points and 3 assists. For OKC, the rookie Aaron Wiggins has 12 and Ty Jerome has 10.
The half starts with an and-1 for McGee, but he misses the free throw. Isaiah Robi one-ups him with a deep three right after that. Book is able to respond after an offensive rebound from Cam Johnson but the game gets sloppy until Jerome is able to find the mark one more time. Aaron Wiggins gets an and-1 on McGee as OKC starts to cut into the Suns lead once again.
Robi commits two quick fouls bringing his total up to five with 8:35 to go on the third and McGee capitalizes on two free throws. Mikal sets a screen for Booker and comes out limping. He is quickly subbed out as Shamet replaces him on the floor. The Thunder keep coming and the Suns have to call time-out with 6:56 to go, still up 66-64.
Ty Jerome is able to beat his career high as he ties the game, but Booker is able to bait Dort into a shooting foul to reclaim the lead right after that. Muscala then hits a three to reclaim a one point lead, but CP3 is able to once again get to the line OKC reaches the penalty. Aaron Wiggins reclaims the lead with a strong dunk and Muscala hits a mid ranger to finally build the Thunder lead to three.
The teams trade baskets for a few possessions until Cam Johnson forces a Dort turnover and Jalen Smith suffers a clear path foul and reclaims the lead. The Suns are able to close the quarter strong again and have a 85-81 lead going into the fourth as McGee makes a miraculous shot from the top of the key and beats the third quarter buzzer.
JaVale McGee with the insane buzzer beater. pic.twitter.com/byxbvPMx33— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) December 30, 2021
Bridges is back in to start the fourth nut Ty Jerome hits his first three to cut the lead to one. the two cams respond with a quick 5-0 run as Cam Johnson extends his double digit scoring streak to 17. McGee and Payne keep the offense going, but Ty Jerome continues to be a problem and keeps the Thunder close.
The Suns are able to capitalize on two wide open missed threes from Robi and open a 9 point lead, but when he makes his third straight open attempt, Young calls a time-out. Booker checks back in with Jalen Smith but the Suns keep missing free throws and easy shots, until Book hits a three to bring the lead back up to 9 and forcing OKC to a time-out with 4:44 to go.
Smith and Payne remain on the floor as the Suns are able to finally build a large lead um 15 with 3 minutes to go. Booker comes out aggressive on the fourth and ties his season high with 38 points before committing an intentional foul with 1:17 to go and allowing Kevin Young to empty the bench, including new signee Emmanuel Terry.