Oklahoma City Thunder (13-41, 3-22 road) vs. Phoenix Suns (30-23, 15-10 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.3 (28th), Phoenix: 108.9 (10th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.4 (21st), Phoenix: 109.4 (18th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.6 (8th), Phoenix: 94.7 (4th)
As much as I love trades and roster moves and all the shifting pieces, I’m kind of relieved to get it back on the basketball court. The last few days have been pretty nuts and it will be nice to get back to what’s actually important – the game on the floor. (Though I’m sure Brian Davis and Grant Long will be sure to spend 75 minutes discussing every bit of the minutia that occurred this week. I know. I can’t wait either.)
There’s no secret as to what Phoenix is going to do to tonight. They’re going to score, score and score some more. After firing Terry Porter and promoting Alvin Gentry who vowed to put the team back at its “breakneck pace,” the runnin’ Suns have put up 140 and 142 points the last two games. Granted, it was against a Clipper squad that really doesn’t really enjoy playing basketball right now, but still, 282 points in two games is darn impressive. It would take a P.J. Carlesimo team two months to score that many points.
But those two games were with Amare Stoudemire. And news broke today he may be out up to eight weeks with a partially detached retina. Yikes. So OKC catches a little break there heading into Phoenix, but for some reason in recent history, the Thunder has really struggled against teams missing stars. I don’t know why, but we’ve seen it against the Wizards, the Clippers, the Warriors, the Nuggets and a few others. So who knows. And plus, Phoenix is pretty good regardless of Amare, even if he’s their leading scorer. I don’t know who Phoenix will stick at the four – maybe Robin Lopez, maybe Lou Amundson, maybe even Matt Barnes gets a little burn there. I just hope Robert Swift gets in and punches Amundson in the face.
In an up-and-down game like we’re probably going to see tonight, Kevin Durant could go for 50. This is his playground. He plays so well in the flow of a game and he gets some of his best looks in transition or secondary breaks (see: 2009 Rookie Challenge). Obviously, he’s going to be the Suns focus tonight and Jason Richardson will get the assignment. Richardson is shorter (about 6-6) but he’s strong and could muscle KD a bit. Plus, Phoenix has Matt Barnes off the bench (or starting at the four?) who is long and lean and has the ability to pester Durant’s shot.
In the last meeting which was in OKC, Russell Westbrook torched the Suns for 31 points and five assists. But Steve Nash left that game early with a shoulder issue and only played nine minutes. So there’s really not a good barometer to judge those head-to-head. But Russ loves to run too, so while he may be out of control at a few points tonight, I think he can also put up solid numbers and maybe slow Nash a bit.
OKC really has no answer for Shaq (Tyson Chandler… sigh) so that’s going to be the toughest match for the Thunder tonight. Nick Collison will surely do his darndest, but not many people out there can guard the Shaqtus, so OKC will likely be running anybody and everybody at him. I actually think Nenad Krstic may be the best match for Shaq just because he’s a little bigger than Nick. But like I said, there’s really no good answer there.
No word yet on Thabo’s status. I seriously doubt he’s going to play. After all, he’s got to pass that physical you know and with Dr. Carlan Yates giving them, that’s no easy task. I for one can’t wait to get him out there. Tonight would be a nice night to break him in with Grant Hill and Leandro Barbosa getting run at the Suns’ two guard. Kyle Weaver will have his work cut out for him… again. I think he’s getting used to it though with recent covers like Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy and Kevin Martin. Life in the NBA: never an easy night.
This should be a really fun game to watch as the two teams can score and like to get out and run more than a little. The saying for these type of games goes “he who plays defense first wins,” but as we all know, he who scores the most points typically wins. So get out there and run with ’em OKC and see what happens. You’re going to need some stops for sure, but you’re also going to have to keep pace. We don’t have the personnel to grind them out like the Spurs. So use what we can and hang in there.
The Suns are hot (ahahahaha!) and the Thunder’s lost three in a row and five straight on the road and would love to get back to the winning ways. Should be a good one.
Tip at 8:00 our time. Go Rumbles.