At some point, bad basketball just catches up to you.
The Thunder played a dismal offensive first half, shooting under 28 percent but hung in the game behind a strong effort at the free throw line. They battled back from 13 down in the third quarter to take a three-point lead going into the fourth, but there was just a feeling about this game. The kind where despite OKC clawing back into the game, it felt like the Suns still had things in hand.
It was like the Thunder was scrambling to figure things out all night. Kevin Durant did a nice little takeover job in the fourth quarter, hitting a number of jumpers to keep Oklahoma City close, but there were just too many costly defensive lapses and bad turnovers to overcome. For instance, with a little over a minute left after getting a big stop and trailing by three, instead of going back to an offensive set, Durant brought the ball up the floor for what I presume was going to be an isolation on Josh Childress.
Durant, who tends to have some issues in isolation with a defender picking and swiping at the ball, lost it to Childress. The Suns ended up capitalizing and went up five with 45 seconds left. That was a tough margin for the Thunder to work with at that point and they couldn’t ever get it tied.
Another curious decision that has to be looked at since it didn’t work, was going small down the stretch. The Suns did as well, but Nick Collison was playing pretty exceptional on the interior. Instead, Scott Brooks inserted James Harden and went with Westbrook, Harden, Thabo, Green and Durant. Robin Lopez was out of the game and Channing Frye was playing center for Phoenix, so it wasn’t like the Suns had a huge advantage, but Brooks clearly went for offense over defense. I say it didn’t work because the Thunder lost, plus there just weren’t enough stops. The offense did click well down the stretch scoring on a lot of possessions, but it’s at least something that was a little odd.
Jeff Green did have a halfcourt launch to send the game to overtime, but unlike the second $20,000 winner in a little over a week, his attempt clanged off the iron. A good effort, but like the Thunder, a little short.
- The first half, Durant and Westbrook went a combined 3-18. They went 10-18 in the second. A nice turnaround, but too little too late.
- Serge Ibaka was a COMPLETE non-factor. Just 11 minutes played with no points, rebounds, blocks, assists or steals. It was a matchup thing as Lopez was working him inside, plus Nick Collison was playing really well.
- Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha really keyed the third quarter run with both hitting a couple 3s after Phoenix went to a zone. Without their spark, OKC would’ve trailed by at least 10 heading to the fourth.
- Speaking of the third quarter spark: OKC outscored Phoenix 15-4 to end the quarter, held them without a field goal for the last 3:23 and the Suns last seven possessions consisted of five turnovers and two misses. WHERE WAS THAT ALL NIGHT?
- Westbrook played a pretty nice game in the end, despite his shot not going down. 19 points and nine assists against three turnovers is okay by me.
- I’ve got to question the on-the-floor call with about 10 seconds left. With the Thunder down three, the Suns fouled on purpose, but Westbrook anticipated it and went into a halfcourt shot on the foul. The officials inexplicably called it on the floor, which meant Westbrook was awarded two shots instead of three. Instead of a tie game, OKC still trailed by one. With the way continuation is called, I just don’t understand how that wasn’t on the shot.
- Grant Hill thought it was 1997 tonight. 30 points and 11 rebounds for the 38-year-old.
- Collison, as mentioned, was terrific. A season-high 19 points, plus eight rebounds.
- Again, as mentioned, another Thunder fan hit a halfcourt shot to win $20,000. I bet MidFirst Bank is kind of like, “OK, heh heh, let’s stop that now.”
- And almost just like the night Robert Yanders hit his, Eric Maynor swishes a deep 3 at the buzzer to end the third. This time, it was just after the horn. A bad omen, I suppose.
- Any time Steve Nash shoots, I have no doubt it’s going in.
- Westbrook missed another fast break dunk. That’s getting really annoying now.
- James Harden 11 points by going 9-9 from the line. The team though, missed eight free throws. A big difference in the game tonight. (However, the Thunder did make 38 free throws, which is why they were in it anyway.)
- I just want to say Kelly Crull does a really nice job as a sideline reporter for the TV broadcasts. It sucks too, because FS Oklahoma isn’t going to be able to hang on to her much longer. Somebody is going to come and hire her for something big at some point.
The Thunder really had a golden opportunity to go 4-0 on the homestand, especially with a weakened Suns team coming in. But it was like OKC took things for granted from the beginning. The Thunder fell behind 7-0 in the first minute and didn’t seem ready for a Suns team that was ready to play. It seemed as if the Thunder expected the Suns to roll over and give them the game. OKC just simply wasn’t ready. The first half showcased it with the Thunder shooting under 28 percent while also missing a handful of free throws again. They nearly made up for it with some urgency in the third quarter, but the Thunder should’ve been working with a lead for most of the game instead of scratching back from behind.
That ends a five-game win streak, so it’s a little hard to get that huffy and puffy when your team has played well over the past week or so. But this is a bad loss because it should’ve been a gift win. Huge credit to the Suns though for not just laying down on the doorstep. They outplayed the Thunder and definitely outworked them.
Next up: At the Bobcats Tuesday.