Phoenix Suns (34-23, 14-16 road) vs. Okla. City Thunder (33-21, 16-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.2 (18th), Suns – 113.7 (1st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (3rd), Suns – 110.8 (29th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.6 (16th), Suns – 95.7 (4th)
View from the enemy: Valley of the Suns
First, the big news about the game: Taylor Griffin is back! I mean, Steve Nash is out. Nash didn’t even travel with the team so that should help. But if I’ve learned anything about the NBA, it’s that sometimes, teams win without their best players. I’ve seen it happen a lot. So this is absolutely no given. However, I’d rather Steve Nash not play than play, right? My how far we’ve come in a short in OKC. Gone are the days where we went to the Ford Center to see other stars. Now we’re happy we when we don’t get to see them play. I like this better.
This is a classic offense vs. defense game. The Suns stink defensively, but efficiency wise, are tops in the league. Oklahoma City is an elite defensive squad, that struggles at times to put the ball in the basket.
Phoenix coming in: The Suns beat Sacramento Sunday night behind 17 assists from Steve Nash. And Phoenix is hot too, winning eight of their last 10. On the road though, they’re 14-16.
The problem is, the Thunder don’t match up inside exceptionally well with the Suns. But then again, who really matches up well with Amare Stoudemire? Last time, Serge Ibaka saw a good amount of time inside on Amare and I’d expect more of that. Nick Collison has been playing big fourth quarter minutes lately too, so I’d imagine he’s going to play a big role as well. Robin Lopez has been playing pretty well for Phoenix too, so their front line is really where they’re going to make their money tonight with Nash being out.
Something Phoenix does very well is penetrate and kick to shooters like Channing Frye. And something Oklahoma City does well is rotate and help defend. But what that does is leaves guys open for outside shots. Frye hit five 3s last time and will likely get his looks again.
Grant Hill works hard defensively, but Kevin Durant should have his way. The Suns just don’t have an answer for KD. Jared Dudley will probably get his crack too, but it’s a definite position advantage. Russell Westbrook typically plays some of his best games against the Suns and tonight should be no different with him going against Goran Dragic, though Dragic is faster and a better defender than Nash. Jason Richardson will have to provide most of Phoenix’s secondary scoring, and I like that because Thabo will be guarding him.
The Thunder beat Phoenix, in Phoenix last time and did it by locking down on the defensive end and executing late. It was a game Kevin Durant took over in the fourth quarter and led OKC to victory in. And with the Suns ailing with some injuries, No. 10 is there for the taking. It’s at home and the game is sold out. I would expect an absolutely ballistic crowd here in OKC tonight. Thunder fans are starting to taste what this team is doing and for the rest of the year, I anticipate scary good crowds.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Sixth Man.