The Phoenix Suns lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 117-96.
After leading for the entirety of the first half, the Suns were knocked back in the third and could not match the Thunder’s energy. The absence of Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder defensively was felt just as much as Devin Booker’s absence offensively, as the Thunder built a pushed the lead into the double-digits in the fourth quarter and held on to a surprisingly comfortable win.
Olivier Sarr had a career night for the Thunder with 24 points and 5 threes off the bench, while Aleksej Pokuševski posted his first triple-double, with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists. Mikal Bridges led the way for the Suns with 18 points but lacked support on both ends of the court as the Suns suffer their second-consecutive loss.
- PG - Chris Paul
- SG - Landry Shamet
- SF - Mikal Bridges
- PF - Cam Johnson
- C - JaVale McGee
Out/Injured: Deandre Ayton (rest), Devin Booker (rest), Frank Kaminsky (knee recovery), Jae Crowder (right ankle soreness), Dario Saric (knee recovery)
- PG - Théo Maledon
- SG - Vit Krejčí
- SF - Aaron Wiggins
- PF - Aleksej Pokuševski
- C - Isaiah Roby
Out/Injured: Darius Bazley (knee), Lugentz Dort (shoulder recovery), Derrick Favors (back), Josh Giddey (hip), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (ankle), Ty Jerome (hernia recovery), Tre Mann (hamstring), Mike Muscala (ankle recovery), Kenrich Williams (knee)
Phoenix got out early to a 20-8 lead, with Mikal Bridges posting 8 points within the first seven minutes.
Monty Williams resisted looking at his bench until the 4-minute mark, with Cam Payne, Torrey Craig, Ish Wainwright, and Bismack Biyombo coming in for the first rotation. Suns looked to Cam Johnson offensively, but he still looks to be finding his shot as he missed all 4 of his three-point attempts in the quarter.
Oklahoma City took advantage and went on a 10-0 run in just under three minutes before the Suns could stabilize and finish the first quarter with a 27-20 lead.
The second quarter began with Elfid Payton replacing Johnson and Payton converted at the rim on the first play of the quarter. Torrey Craig scored back-to-back baskets to push the Suns' lead back out to 10 with 9 minutes left to go in the first half.
But the Thunder bench did well to fight back, with Jerome Robinson-Earl and Olivier Sarr burying a pair of threes apiece to make it 38-37 with 6:29 left in the half.
Even as the starters trickled back into the game for both teams, the tight play carried into the end of the half. The Thunder’s hot shooting continued, as they hit 11 threes in the half, topped off by Isaiah Roby’s buzzer-beater from just outside the coach’s hash.
Suns still held a slim lead at the break, 53-52. Bridges led the Suns with 12 points and Landry Shamet joined him in the double-figures with 10 points and a couple of threes. Robinson-Earl’s 11 points off the bench led the way for the Thunder, shooting a perfect 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from downtown. 27 of the Thunder’s 52 points came from their reserves, as Sarr and Lindy Waters III chipped in with 6 points apiece.
The Thunder came out of the break firing, grabbing the lead and pushing it out to seven within the first three minutes. Williams refused to panic, trusting in Chris Paul and the rest of the starters to figure it out.
The Suns’ starters did well to stabilize themselves at first. But the Thunder held strong and pushed the lead out to 10 with 3:25 left in the quarter, leading 75-65. While the offense was finding open shots for the Suns, their shooting from deep continued to struggle. They went 1-9 from deep in the quarter and were shooting a dismal 5-28 on the night at the end of three quarters.
The Thunder led 84-75 heading into the final quarter, but it only got worse for Phoenix as a Pokuševski three and a four-point play from Sarr gave the Thunder a 16-point lead with 11 minutes still to go.
Despite the presence of the starters, the Suns could not find their rhythm as Thunder pushed the lead out to 22 with just under 6:30 to go. Pokuševski earned his 10th assist of the night in the process, leaving him two rebounds shy of his first career triple-double.
With just over 5 minutes left to go, Paul and Bridges were subbed out as Williams called it a night and cleared out his bench. Johnson subbed out a minute later and gave way to his newest teammate, Gabriel “Iffe” Lundberg. The substitution marked Lundberg’s place in history as the first Danish-grown player to play in the NBA.
The Thunder held on for the impressive home victory, 117-96. Pokuševski made history as the 12th youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, ending the night with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists. Seven players scored in double-figures for Oklahoma City, with Sarr posting a career-high 24 points off the bench, shooting 9-12 from the field and 5-6 from downtown.
The Suns will now head home to host the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.