The Thunder were playing without first-time All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (hip, ankle pain) and were on the second night of a back-to-back, so you might think the Suns would make this a quick blowout. Kevin Durant still hasn’t checked into a game for the Suns yet, but is targeting a return in less than a week.
But if you thought that, you haven’t watched enough Thunder basketball this year. They are confident and aggressive, constantly attacking the paint for scores or fouls off constant motion. And they’ve beaten the Grizzlies and Celtics without SGA this year, the latter a 150-117 blowout win. Overall, they are 3-1 without SGA.
They kept the game tight with activity and aggression, and Isaiah Joe went off for 21 points, including 5 threes, in the first half. He topped his career high of 23 with his sixth three pointer early in the third quarter, to give him 24 points.
The Suns made some space with a 11-0 run in the middle of the third quarter fueled by Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, giving them a 85-78 lead they’d never give back.
The Suns never looked totally in the flow this game, but gutted out a win anyway against the feisty Thunder. Suns scoring was well balanced, with 8 players scoring 9+ points.
Suns win, 124-115.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Chris Paul and Josh Okogie had 15 points each. Deandre Ayton had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Thunder were led by Isaiah Joe’s career high 28 points, followed closely by Jalen Williams 22. Former ASU Sun Devil Lu Dort had 17 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Suns had a healthy Devin Booker and Cameron Payne for the first time in almost two months, and were rested a full week through the All-Star break. Yet they looked a bit sluggish against the Thunder, who were constantly on the move to create openings against a Suns team not exactly on the same page yet, due to injuries and trades.
The Thunder play super small, without a real center out there, and that took the Suns out of their game. You know how Deandre Ayton does against little dudes — sometimes he mashes them, but usually he checks out. And the Suns didn’t go at him either. He had no shot attempts until 3:19 left in the first quarter.
The Thunder led, 30-29, after one. Isaiah Joe led them with 9 points, while Devin Booker had 9 for the Suns. Cam Payne scored 6 in his first action. The Thunder outshot the Suns in that quarter, 52% to 45%.
The Suns bench unit created some separation in the second quarter, helping pull out to a 55-47 lead with 3:19 left in the half. But the Thunder wouldn’t go away, and used a trio of Isaiah Joe threes to quickly pull back to 60-60.
The Suns took a halftime lead, 65-60, on five assisted points from Torrey Craig in the last 48 seconds. Okogie leads the Suns with 15 points, while Paul and Booker combined for 20 points and 9 assists. Isaiah Joe has 21 points at halftime (two off his career high).
I’m sure coach Williams will be quick to point out that OKC has a pair of 30-point quarters despite missing their best player. Let’s see how the Suns D comes out in the second half.
Man, they just don’t stop coming at you. This period, it’s Lu Dort with cutting and driving, generating points after points. And, they made 3 of 4 threes coming out of halftime.
The Thunder took a 78-74 lead on that third three (Dort has 8 in the quarter), but the Suns went on a 11-0 run after that to grab the lead back, 85-78. Book, Paul and Ayton accounted for all 11 points.
The Suns led 94-87 after three on a buzzer beating three by Terrence Ross. The Thunder are staying in this game by making good on their threes — going 6-for-12 in the third quarter alone. Booker leads the Suns with 18 points and 8 assists. Ayton has 14 points, 9 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Thunder have made 13 of 30 threes, while the Suns have made only 9 of 25 so far.
Cam Payne fueled another Suns run in the beginning of the fourth, capping a 10-5 run to start the quarter with his third three-pointer of the game, giving the Suns their biggest lead at 104-92 with 10:15 to go.
Still, the Suns starting unit made it a game for the Thunder and quickly the Suns lead was down to 6 before Devin Booker scored on a breakaway to put the Suns up 118-110 with 3:49 to go.
Devin Booker, still just 26 years old, made a three with a minute to go, the 1,052nd of his career and most in Phoenix Suns franchise history. He passed Steve Nash with that shot.
Phoenix begins a four game road trip that begins against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. It’s an early game — 11:00am in Arizona — and the team will face a Bucks team that may or may not have Giannis Antetokounmpo. He played tonight against the Miami Heat, despite being questionable with a wrist injury and then he left with what appeared to be a knee injury.
Giannis asked for a timeout and went straight to the locker room after what appeared to be an injury. pic.twitter.com/IiExVso256— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 25, 2023
More come in the days ahead. We’ll see you then!