I had a feeling from the midway point of the first quarter that this game was going to end badly. At about the seven minute mark of the third quarter all the way up until about the three minute mark of the fourth, the Thunder’s impressive run with three rookies and Durant and Westbrook helped put that fear to ease…
And then Thabo went for the steal.
To be fair, he had been sitting for quite awhile (more on that later) so it’s certainly going to be discussed about if he should have been inserted when he was ice cold for the game’s biggest play (after all, he had been sitting for a reason) but no matter how much I shook my head in disbelief that the Thunder’s most sound defender actually gambled so recklessly, this loss can not be totally placed on him.
The entire team earned this loss with their lackluster and uninspired play through the first two and a half quarters, but then seemingly totally redeemed themselves with a furious rally to go up by 10 midway through the fourth. Credit to the Suns, they kept fighting, kept clawing little by little. You couldn’t help but be impressed.
One could even argue that Coach Brooks earned a nice share of this loss with his very curious decision to yank the five man unit of Maynor, Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Ibaka that had sparked and sustained the Thunder’s comeback into the last few minutes of the fourth before they got pulled, but this group above most is a team. And they will both enjoy the wins and endure the blame for losses as one.
The first half was, how do I say it, not a lot of fun to watch. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the fact that the Thunder seemed to start out really hot in the first few minutes and the Suns really didn’t, which might have given the Thunder a false sense that this game would be easy and get out of hand early but from the lack of defensive rotation to taking unnecessary gambles on defense to the offense sporadically grinding to a halt, it just didn’t feel like the Thunder really seemed locked in to the game in the first half.
Oh yeah, they also gave up 9 offensive rebounds to the Suns in the first half alone. That was fun to watch in the, “Gee, I like watching a team get 3 or 4 chances in a row” kind of way.
Sure Collison took his customary charges, Westbrook (11 points on 5-8 shooting, 7 assists to 1 turnover and 2 steals in the FIRST HALF) honestly kept the team in the game with his penetrating and playmaking abilities while Green used his quickness to get to the basket and Durant did what he does, namely score in buckets on 7-13 shooting, but there just seemed to be a spark missing in that first half.
On the flip side, I was really impressed with the Suns early on as they made it quite clear that they had no intentions of just rolling over in the Ford Center. Grant Hill and Amare Stoudemire certainly were amped up and I think the rest of the team fed off of them to the tune of 51 first half points for the visiting team on 23-46 shooting (50%FG) despite only shooting 1-5 from 3 PT range. The Suns improved on that statistic in the second half.
The game got out of hand more from there with the Suns extending their lead to 15 points before the seven minute mark of the third quarter saw Russell Westbrook decide to stop the run and begin the Thunder’s furious rally back. It seemed like they could honestly do no wrong well into the fourth, but they just couldn’t put the Suns away and it came back to bite them.
So the win streak stopped at nine. Durant’s 25+ points streak is extended to 29 games…but I’m pretty sure he feels a lot like we do at this point. His streak continuing is no consolation or comfort in this loss. A pyrrhic victory in the face of a painful defeat.
This one hurts.
So hopefully the team (from the coaching staff on down) learns from this and continues to develop a killer instinct that HAS to manifest itself if this team doesn’t want to get handed a broom in the playoffs.
- It was good to see Eric Maynor come out of his semi-funk and play a solid and productive game. I had an entire section ready to be included in this recap about how three rookies, a sophomore and Kevin Durant changed the game (and they did, certainly) and led the Thunder to a runaway victory…if only.
- I have to say this…I rarely like to be that guy who calls out officials but that “blocking” foul whistled on James Harden in the first quarter was easily the most egregious and laughable call I’ve ever witnessed. And yet that was only the opening act. Both sides have a legitimate reason to feel wronged by the refs in this one (somehow Amare got called for what seemed like fifteen fouls in the span of thirty seconds in the fourth quarter and even I shook my head and said, “Man, he’s getting jobbed here”) as the referees called what could only be a questionable and wildly inconsistent ball game. I feel confident that just as many Suns fans feel that way as Thunder fans. But back to the Harden phantom charge. At no point was there any significant contact, neither player was moved and even Dudley seemed shocked and amused by the call as Harden continued to backup and Dudley continued towards the basket untouched. I repeat, UNTOUCHED. Therefore I award the refs no points, and may Stern have mercy on their souls.
- I’ve never officially said it here but I’m going to now. When Thabo has a game like he does tonight and goes 0-5 from the floor, the Thunder end up playing 4-5 on the offensive end and every team they face now knows it. And the Thunder simply just aren’t good enough on offense to get away with that. I love T-Bone and what he brings to this team, but I can’t help but wonder how loud the “Harden needs to start” roar will get the more Sefolosha struggles on the offensive end and isn’t able to make up for it on the defensive end.
- Thunder’s bench outscored the Suns 21-15. Hey, that’s kind of a win, right?
- The Suns outrebounded the Thunder 45-35; that kind of stat is what really, really frustrates you when you lose by a possession.
- Westbrook shot 50%FG (9-18) and Durant shot 54%FG (13-24). The rest of the Thunder’s starting five — 7 of 25 for 28%FG. Do I really need to say anything?
Next up: Bring on the Spurs. Tomorrow night can’t get here fast enough.