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Game Preview: Spicy Thunder team await the Suns post All Star break

SGA is a handful and will present problems if the Suns aren’t ready.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (32-28) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (28-30)

When: 8:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports AZ, ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM


Finally, after eight days off, we get some Suns basketball. Finally we get to see Kevin Durant on the basketball court...but not in a Phoenix Suns jersey.

Finally, after 21 missed games, Cameron Payne returns...maybe.

It has been a long week off as we anxiously await Suns basketball to return. The All-Star break is an ideal time to reset, regroup, and recharge your batteries. Their first test is against a spicy OKC team.

When you first look at this team and their 28-30 record, you think it’s an easy win. You know that the Suns, who have 22 games left on their regular season schedule, have to play this team four times in the final stretch of the season. Shouldn’t be an issue, right?

But then you dig a little deeper.

The Oklahoma City Thunder in their last 15 games prior to the All Star break were 9-6. They lost last night in OT to the Utah Jazz. Bu their previous 15, they’re scoring 121.1 points per game – third best in the league – and are doing so behind newly minted All Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his 30.5 points per game in that time span. He’s also added 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds and his +115 is 9th best in the league.

A team that, in theory, was tanking for Wemby is doing anything but. They are gelling and getting better. Josh Giddey is displaying growth in his second season, rookie Jalen Williams is a solid bucket who is only getting better, and the Thunder are a team that is on the rise.

The Suns will have their work cut out for them as Monty Williams attempts to balance his rotations, integrate a plethora of new players, and find the combination that will equate to winning.

Starting Lineups

The Thunder like “positionless” basketball...


***UPDATE: Shari Gilgeous-Alexander (hip/ankle) is OUT***


  • Cameron Payne (foot) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Landry Shamet (foot) is OUT
  • Kevin Durant (knee) is OUT

Oklahoma City:

  • Chet Holmgren (foot) is OUT
  • Ousmane Dieng (GL) is OUT
  • Aleksej Pokusevski (left tibial plateau) is OUT

Uniform Matchup

What to Watch For

Rotations, rotations, rotations.

Suns don’t have much time to experiment with all of their newly acquired assets. Monty Williams has to walk the fine line of fine-tuning his rotations while simultaneously putting wins on the board. While we don’t expect him to have everything dialed in, we do expect second team roles and identities to begin taking shape.

How are the minutes in which Booker is off the floor being managed? Does Monty play Deandre Ayton more than 30.2 minutes at night? Who is the starting small forward?

While we won’t know the majority of these answers until Kevin Durant suits up and plays, the hope is that Monty isn’t playing 14 guys like he did in the Suns last game against the Clippers.

Keys to a Suns Win

I don’t know if you can contain SGA. What you can do is contain those around him. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander attacks the cylinder, shooting 49.8% of his shots within 10 feet of the rim. Doing so he gets himself to the line, shooting 10.5 free attempts a game. That is the fourth-most in the league.

If Phoenix wants to be successful, they need to do two things: avoid foul trouble, especially those brought on by SGA pressure, and negate those around him from getting easy shots.


We are all hyped for this game, and while I don’t see a letdown in the cards, I do see a fierce battle between these two teams. Oklahoma City has no issue spoiling a good party. They were on the floor when LeBron James broke the all-time scoring record two weeks ago. They appreciated the moment, sat for 15 minutes to let the celebration occur, and went back to beating the crap out of the Lakers in that game.

This game is at home for Phoenix. This game has the introduction of former Thunder player Cameron Payne’s (potential) return. I’m sure they love nothing more than to spoil the Phoenix party.

The Suns will still win, however, because there’s just too much damn talent on this team. I see a big game from Ayton, scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Suns 116, Thunder 113

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube:

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