OKC Thunder (38-12, 15-9 away) vs Phoenix Suns (17-34, 12-12 home)
Where: The US Airways Center – Phoenix, AZ
When: 7:00 pm
TV: FS Oklahoma (679 Directv, 37 Cox, 754 AT&T U-Verse, 416 Dish)
Online Stream: Here.
Radio: WWLS Sports Animal 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: OKC favored by 8.5 . O/U – 206
Official Game Notes: Here.
|PG:||Russell Westbrook||Goran Dragic|
|SG:||Thabo Sefolosha||PJ Tucker|
|SF:||Kevin Durant||Jared Dudley|
|PF:||Nick Collison||Luis Scola|
|C:||Kendrick Perkins||Martin Gortat|
|6th:||Kevin Martin||Michael Beasley|
Last Time: Oklahoma City Thunder took the first borns of the Phoenix Suns and destroyed them too in the 127-96. All 12 players scored in the contest. The Thunder were actually in a close contest until they opened the second half with a 20-2 run.
These two teams are meeting for the second time in three days. A lot of you will be thinking, “Man, this is going to be another Thunder massacre.” Probably not true. This is the NBA and the Thunder are on the road. You can expect the Suns to try and get their respect back after the destruction they faced on Friday.
This hasn’t been a season for the Suns so much as it’s been a series of slightly related weeks of almost professional-quality basketball. The novelty of a coaching change has worn off, and Lindsey Hunter so far has been true to his word. He said he would play the young guys, and rookie Kendall Marshall is actually getting a fair amount of court time now after struggling to play in anything but the trashiest of garbage time under former coach Alvin Gentry. He also said that he’d make Phoenix into a better defensive team. Looking at the Suns’ defensive rating over the past 7 games, it’s clear that…oh. Hmmm.
Well, he was at least right about playing the young guys. Marshall has even seen time alongside Goran Dragic in a two-point guard backcourt, and it’s been rather effective in very limited minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Phoenix go to the dual-PG lineup again tonight against the Thunder; after all, once they’re down by 150 points in the second quarter, they won’t have much else to lose by experimenting with different lineup combinations.
It’s a bit disingenuous to call PJ Tucker a young guy — he’s older than I am, and as basketball twitter will tell you, I’m Father Time’s uncle — but I’m including him in that group because he’s a new face in the Valley. He’s also been the brightest spot of this dismal season, as far as I’m concerned. He’s the quintessential role player/glue guy/term that implies a lack of skill, and he does all of those role player-things. He’s at his best when paired with Jared Dudley, who’s essentially PJ Tucker version 1.0. When Tucker is on the floor, the Suns are -.4 points per 100 possessions; when he sits, they’re -8.6. Dudley’s on/off split is similar: -1.4 when he plays, -10.7 when he sits. The biggest improvement is on the defensive end, where the tenacity and hustle of this dynamic duo gives Phoenix a fighting chance to actually contain some of the prolific perimeter players this league has to offer. Only three of Phoenix’s 25 most-used 2-man combinations have been part of lineups that are outscoring their opponents per 100 possessions. All three include either Tucker or Dudley, and the best — at +1.4/100 — is, of course, Tucker/Dudley.
Looking at the Oklahoma City Thunder injury situation, only Deandre Liggins is just day-to-day. However, he played Friday, and so I would expect him to be available tonight as well.
The Phoenix Suns have one major injuriy to their roster. Channing Frye is out for the season. He had a right shoulder injury. When they did his routine physical, they found he had a enlarged heart.
This is going to be the 18th match up between the Suns and the Thunder since the move to Oklahoma City. The Thunder are winning in the series 17-6. Oklahoma City is currently on an nine game winning streak over Phoenix. The Suns won the first four of the series, and Oklahoma City basically won the last 11 of 12 .Surprisingly, Oklahoma City has a 5-2 series lead in games that are in Phoenix.. The Suns lead the overall series 121-98.
Keys to the Game
Keep your composure.
Okay, you guys won by a lot. I mean, like a lot, on Friday night. Remember, this is the NBA and any night any team is capable of winning games, especially when they’re at home. Must keep your heads and stick to the game plan. Cannot get too cocky and think you’re going to just win the game because of who you are. You’re not the Los Angeles Lakers. Don’t think like them.
Ibaka is the key point here tonight. I think his game play can effect whether or not Oklahoma City is able to win this game. Last game, him and Luis Scola just cancelled each other out. He needs to be more aggressive, and be more involved on the offensive end.
Thunder shot 66 percent from deep last game against Phoenix. They shoot just 33 percent from the three on the road. Let’s see that improve tonight. At times, I think this team wants to live and die by the three. I hope tonight isn’t that case.