Tonight the Thunder played the Slump Buster for the Suns, getting them off the shneid for a six game losing streak. The Thunder didn’t really lose this game or give it away, it was thoroughly taken from them by the Suns with their sheer hustle and grit-the best of it coming in the fourth quarter. The Thunder were completely outplayed in all areas of the game.
The Thunder opened up a nice lead nine point lead in the first quarter, which reached a high of thirteen at one point. It looked like the Defense that the Thunder had been displaying in the last 1/2 dozen games was going to continue into the Durant 2.0 era, but I think it was just a lot of spotty shooting by the Suns. The first quarter wound up being the only quarter we won of the four. We shot 51% in the first half but the Suns kept chipping away at our lead, aided by the Thunder’s 12 first half turnovers. Shaq picked up his 3rd foul just 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter and I really thought we would get it done. At the half we still had a small lead, we were in charge of the boards, and the 12 turns only produced 8 points for the Suns. We were looking ok.
In the second half the Suns were just a lot more dominant than in the first. Suddenly they began to really hit the boards, and we continued to turn the ball over. Oh, and the Suns found their shooting stroke, shooting 52.5% in the second half to the Thunder’s 41%.
The difference in this game was really two things: hustle and the Suns bench; and well, maybe it’s just one thing because a ton of the energy and hustle came from the Sun’s bench players. Louis Admundson, Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa just really dominated. Admundson and Dudley were defensive pests in a big way. Admundson really laid hard fouls, played great defense on Green and Collison and Dudley went crazy with tough rebounding, steals and tough scoring in the trenches. Meanwhile Barbosa hit three big time threes in the fourth quarter as part of his 22 points in 24 minutes. The Thunder were really slow closing out on the shooters all night when the Suns swung the ball around the arc.
The Suns got 44 points and 19 boards from their bench, while we had 13 points and 5 rebounds from ours. Jared Dudley alone had 7 rebounds (four offensive) in the fourth quarter, while the Thunder as a team only managed 8 in the quarter. Ouch. He tossed in seven points and a steal in the quarter as well.
The two areas where the Thunder are actually very good are rebounding and getting to the line. We are top ten in the NBA in both, but we were dominated in both by a hungry Suns team tonight.
- The first thing I noticed is that the Thunder weren’t running tonight as they’ve done so many times to their detriment against fast paced teams. The game ran at 92 possessions, below both team’s season average and the Sun’s latest running pace with Alvin Gentry.
- This version of “7 seconds or less” Suns offense isn’t. They just don’t even come close to running like the Suns under D’Antoni. I guess it’s really just a change of personnel with no Amare, Marion, Diaw and a big Cactus in the middle.
- Early in the first I saw something I haven’t yet seen this season: Krispy nads actually put the ball on the floor and drove on Shaq. It worked great and got Shaq his first foul. Why don’t we do this more?
- A quick peek at the four factors above will immediately show you that we lost all four. Ouch!
- The Suns did a lot more attacking the basket than I’ve seen in the past. Usually the Suns are really bombing away from outside.
- Thabo and Weaver’s defense seemed to bug Jason Richardson; he only got 20 minutes and was 3/9.
- It was some sort of Latino fan appreciation night in Phoenix tonight and so the Suns had “Los Suns” on their uniforms. Maybe I am just a little ignorant, but why is the “Los” in spanish and not the “Suns”? Shouldn’t it say “Los soles”?
- Not sure where Earl Watson was. Chucky got his minutes tonight and he didn’t get in the way, which is nice, but his defense was pretty poor. More than once when he was guarding Nash or Dragic, a Suns player would come up and screen him. He kept going over the screen, but it was so slow and pathetic it didn’t accomplish anything. To the best of my understanding, when the screen comes a teammate is supposed to call it out to the player getting screened to give him time to “belly up” to the ball handler and get over the screen before it cuts him off. It never happened and Chucky was way out of position. Later I saw the Thunder began switching on the screens more often instead of fighting over them.
- Nobody on the Thunder can guard Barbosa on a drive. When the dust settles this off season it would be nice if we could find a bench guy for our roster that can play some lockdown defense on those super fast tiny guys in the league like Barbosa, Aaron Brooks, Nate Robinson, Jason Terry etc. Weaver and Thabo are great, but at 6′-6″ or so, they are just too big for those “specialty” type of players. If westbrook has to guard them, who is going to guard the opposing point guard?
- Jeff Green sure got knocked around a lot tonight. I saw him get hammered in the face by Shaq’s shoulder, and go down hard on the wood at least two other times.
- With the recent debate about Durant’s defense I found myself watching him more on that end tonight. He definitely can’t stay in front of Nash or Barbosa, but I thought he did okay on Grant Hill and Jason Richardson when he was on them.
- We picked up our sixteenth turn halfway through the third period!
- I thought Steve Nash’s 7 turns were really stinky until I saw that Westbrook had 8.
- Weaver hit a deep, deep three as time expired to tie the score at the end of the third. The Sun’s announcer was telling a story that Weaver’s father hit a three from beyond half court back in the day as a high schooler to win the Wisconsin state high school championship game.
- We were outscored in the fourth by 11 points, and by 20 after the first quarter.
- Malik Rose didn’t even get out of the paint to contest a three by Dudley in the corner.
- With 2:12 left in the 4th, Barbosa hit a second of two back to back threes from the corner, right in front of the Thunder bench. After the shot went in, Thabo held up both hands like he was saying ” whats the deal with that”? I couldn’t figure out what he was griping about so I ran the DVR back a couple of times and saw Grant Hill actually wrap up Thabo with both hands and his body for a long second to keep him from closing out on Barbosa’s shot. Terrible “no call”.
- We had 100 scoring opportunities (FGA”s +FTA’s), but the Suns had 108 thanks to all those rebounds they collected and all of our turns. They had 22 points off of our 20 turns.
- Thabo is a steal machine. He is getting his hands on 3.2% of our opponents possessions since he’s been a member of the Thunder, far and away the team leader. If he continued that for a season he would be fifth in the league, just behind guys like Chris Paul and Jason Kidd. He had three more tonight.
- To put our turns in perspective, we had a 22% turnover rate, which my college dropout educations tells me is actaully more than 1/5th of our possessions ended in a giveaway to the Suns.
And finally, a guy named Robbie runs a site called Statsheet.com and he has some great stats and fantastic charts that can be viewed and embedded on blogs. Here are a few from tonight’s game. Thanks Robbie.