Here we go again. The Phoenix Suns played well through three quarters, heading into the fourth quarter with an 86-80 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game they played hard, until the fourth quarter buzzer started...
Then the fourth happened. OKC went on a 26-9 run to take a 106-95 lead with less than three minutes left and the game was over.
Unbelievable. At least one of Beal and Durant were in all quarter, both for most of it, but they couldn’t make shots and neither could anyone else. The Suns made only 2 of 21 shots in the fourth. TWO. OF TWENTY ONE. Outscored 31-13 in the fourth overall.
Just hard to explain, folks.
Suns have now lost a league-high 4 games after leading coming into the fourth quarter. We’re only 10 games in.
The Phoenix Suns were led by Kevin Durant’s 28 points, but he only had 5 in the fourth. Bradley Beal had 15 on the night, but only 2 in the fourth. Drew Eubanks had 15 on the night, but none on the fourth. Jordan Goodwin had 11 points, but none in the fourth...
OKC were led by Shai Gilgeous Alexander’s 35 points, followed closely by Jalen Williams’ 31.
We immediately see the matchup issues with the Oklahoma City and it’s not painting a good picture for the Suns. Chet Holmgren is tough matchup for Jusuf Nurkic (has five points, two blocks and drawn three fouls off Nurk in three minutes), no one can guard Shai Gilgeous Alexander (Josh Okogie gets the start) and but everyone leaves him alone on offense to double someone else... need I keep going...
The Thunder went up 19-11 halfway through the quarter on Chet Holmgren’s second three of the game. Kevin Durant as 5 of the Suns points but has been mostly a non-factor because OKC employed the eth quarter defense from the onset because Gordon was out too — put Lu Dort in Durant’s hip, and then double Durant on any catch with the guy who’s guarding anyone who can’t hit a three — which tonight is a lot of guys.
And then something happened. The Phoenix Suns just started playing hard, and used a 12-6 run to pull the quarter all the way back to a 29-29 tie at the end of the first quarter. Drew Eubanks (6), Jordan Goodwin (5) and Yuta Watanabe (3) helped Kevin Durant (7 for the quarter) close it out well. The Suns bench had more points than the starters in that quarter. OKC was led by SGA (10) and rookie Chet Holmgren’s 8.
Bradley Beal started the second quarter with the benchies, giving Durant a break. The Suns finally took their first lead of the half at 33-31 on a Keita Bates-Diop dunk, forcing an OKC timeout.
Once Chet Holmgren came back in, the plan was clear: force action at him and get him in foul trouble. Holmgren had three by the eight minute mark of the second.
The second quarter remained tight, with Grayson Allen giving the Suns a brief 47-45 lead on a driving dunk. The Suns took the lead again at 49-48 on Okogie free throws, and again on Durant free throws at 53-52. Notice a pattern? The Suns are forcing the issue and getting OKC into foul trouble. Not just a kjump shooting team anymore.
At halftime, the Suns lead the OKC Thunder 59-54. The Suns made 13 of 16 free throws while outrebounding the Thunder 27-13. Bradley Beal led the Suns with 13 points, also leading the team with 7 rebounds. Kevin Durant had 11. And in a really cool turn, Josh Okogie turned down those open threes to drive to the rim to get fouled — 8-8 FT shooting at the half.
The OKC Thunder tried to come back in to take control of the game like they did in the first quarter, but the Suns were doing a much better job with the game plan: forcing fouls when they can, rather than settling for jumpers, and creating turnovers of their own. Holmgren, Williams and Dort all have three fouls each.
The Suns had a 66-63 lead with 8 minutes left in the third. Durant got Dort’s fourth foul on a three a minute later, setting up a 4-point play AND the physical Dort being a big foul trouble the rest of the way (6:41 left in the third). Suns lead 73-68.
Suns lead 76-72 with 3:43 left in the third, and the Suns bench in outscoring OKC’s bench 28-5 as we near majority bench minutes for both teams in the quarter bridge. Jordan Goodwin has 11 points on 4-7 shooting INCLUDING 3-5 on THREES.
Suns lead 86-80 at the end of three. Kevin Durant has an impressive 19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Drew Eubanks is the team’s second-leading scorer with 15 points on 7-8 shooting after Jusuf Nurkic softened up Chet Holmgren with fouls.
Now the witching hour. Suns are the worst 4th quarter team in the league...
Looks like the Suns are setting up the fourth with most/all being played with both Durant and Beal. Both had low enough minutes coming into the quarter to make it at least a ‘most’. Beal checked out a minute in.
But, welp here we go anyway. KD missing layups. Eubanks missing a putback dunk. Threes going widewide. Traveling calls. Tentative passes.
Kevin Durant forced free throws with 7:59 left to help the Suns take 91-88 lead, but then the Thunder took a 92-91 lead with SGA and the OKC starters less than 30 seconds later as Durant missed a couple of forced jumpers.
Back comes Beal, but Durant takes a rest. Ugh. Luckily the Suns aggression stepped up again, and Grayson Allen drew free throws to get the Suns back in the lead 95-94 with 6 left.
Durant and Beal both back in for the final 6 minutes, but the first couple minutes looked a lot like the other fourths — shots rimming in and out, over and over. Gotta make shots!
The game started getting away at that point. Suns got down 101-95 with 3:26 left and just couldn’t seem to do anything right. ANYTHING.