Oklahoma City Thunder (13-14, 6-7 road) vs. Phoenix Suns (18-10, 10-1 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.5 (2oth), Suns – 113.6 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.5 (10th), Suns – 110.5 (27th)
Pace: Thunder – 91.9 (19th), Suns – 95.3 (5th)
View from the enemy: Valley of the Suns
The excuse is already put in place. Second night of a back-to-back, coming off an emotional loss to the Lakers, blah blah blah. While that’s reality and if OKC gets beat by 15, that’ll likely be something I mentioned in my sad recap, the truth is this is the NBA and if you want to do big things, back-to-backs shouldn’t matter that much.
The REAL excuse is that you’re playing a very good team on their home floor, where they’ve been near unbeatable. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be defeated there. It’s all about energy early for this team. I think we’ll know in the first six minutes whether we’re going to have a good game or not. Easy buckets are the lifeblood of the Suns offense and if they’re getting them in chunks early, it might be best to just shut the TV off.
Phoenix coming in: The Suns will be rested and ready for vengeance after dropping their first home game of the season Monday. After started the season 14-3, the Suns have gone 4-7 so far in December. Their home record might be scary looking, but these guys are beatable right now.
Two places OKC has a nice versus: small forward and… point guard. Yep, I think the Thunder has a leg up there, mainly because Russell Westbrook thrives against slower guards like Steve Nash. Look what happened last night against Derek Fisher. Russ has the speed to get around anyone, but make that someone a little slower and a little less quick and it’s a good thing for the Thunder. Now of course, Nash is awesome and a better point man than Westbrook, but in the sense of a matchup, I think this favors OKC a bit.
As for the three, of course the Thunder matches well. Kevin Durant could have a big time night, especially since it looks like he’s regained some confidence. Grant Hill will get the call to start with, but I’m sure Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley will see ample time on KD too. Regardless who it is, if KD’s shot is falling, he’s going to have a big night because he’s going to get open looks. I like Thabo guarding Richardson, who is really Phoenix’s top perimeter scorer. But inside, Jeff Green will have trouble with Amare. That’s a huge mistmatch for OKC. I would bet Serge Ibaka gets a lot of time on Stoudemire.
Some good news: Eric Maynor will join the team and is scheduled to play. Russell Westbrook, who had to play darn near the whole game last night is probably happy about that. And OKC will need him because as good as James Harden is, he’s not ready to handle point-guard duties in an exclusive sense yet.
We all know what Phoenix wants to do. And we know what the Thunder prides itself on. So it’s a pretty good clash. It’ll come down to OKC executing in the halfcourt, rebounding and getting just enough stops. After tonight the schedule lightens up. But it sure would be sweet to carry a nice unexpected win into an easier schedule. We’re all hoping for at least a .500 2009 and a win tonight would go a long way to getting there.
Tip at 8:00 CST. Go Eric Maynor.