Phoenix Suns (1-2, 1-0 road) vs. OKC Thunder (4-0, 2-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 107.5 (7th), Suns– 97.2 (27th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.9 (16th), Suns – 99.5 (9th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.8 (10th), Suns – 89.1 (24th)
View from the enemy: Valley of the Suns
These are the type of games that kind of show you who you are. The buzzer-beaters and the big wins over contenders go a long way, but the Thunder face an average Suns team that’s coming off a game the night before. At home. There’s really no excuse to lose, or even have be that much of a headache. Problem is, Phoenix has that Steve Nash guy that tends to make things difficult.
Phoenix coming in: The Suns won last night in New Orleans pretty easily.
Three Big Things
1. Checking Nash. He runs the engine. More than ever, really. Russell Westbrook is a nice defender but can sometimes lose focus. He’ll sag or go under screens and if you do that against Nash, he’ll kill you.
2. Westbrook. He bounced back against Dallas those last four minutes, but is that going to carry over? Are the turnovers going to get cut down? Will he get to the rim? Against Memphis and Dallas, the two games he struggled most, he only took five total shots at the rim. That’s got to improve if he’s going to be effective, both in terms of distributing and scoring.
3. Business time. The Thunder have a nice record at home on New Year’s Eve. This isn’t the time to mess that up. And really, they should be kind and let everyone trickle out a little early by holding onto a 15-point lead or so late in the fourth. There’s really no excuse not to handle business against the Suns. OKC is rested, the Suns are tired, it’s at home and the Thunder are plain better. The only thing that could get in the way is a potential hangover from the excitement against the Mavs but true contenders put that stuff behind them and move on to the next game.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Happy New Thunder.