Game 50 Recap: Thunder (30-20) def. Suns (20-28) 111-107natashapanchal.com

Game 50 Recap: Thunder (30-20) def. Suns (20-28) 111-107

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A lot of people are understandably angry that Devin Booker isn’t an All Star.

A little over 18,000 of them gathered tonight at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, to take out their fury and frustration on Chris Paul.

In the eyes of Suns fans, Booker was snubbed of his All Star bid and overlooked for the likes of less worthy players such as Paul, Donovan Mitchell and Russell Westbrook. Neither Mitchell nor Westbrook were playing in Phoenix on Friday night, so Paul was Public Enemy Number 1.

An injustice had been done to the long suffering Phoenix fans, who haven’t had an All Star represent their city since Steve Nash in 2012. A playoff appearance is even further in the rear view, as it’s been a full 10 years since the Suns have qualified for the postseason. At least they’d finally break one of those streaks, as every player in NBA history to average 27 points per game, six assists per game, and have a true shooting percentage of 60% has been voted to the All-Star game. That is, until Devin Booker this season.

Enter Chris Paul.

Every time CP3 touched the ball, he was met with a chorus of boo’s raining down from Booker backers from the lower bowls to the upper bowls. Whether the jeers affected him or if it was just his usual slow first half that would eventually give way to an epic finish, Paul didn’t look the part of All Star in the first half when he finished with 3 points on 1-6 shooting.

Undoubtedly, the Suns faithful felt justified in their relentless ridicule.

The thing is, Chris Paul is a worthy All Star. He deserved the nod. And much to the chagrin of the devout Devin devotees, CP3 showed them exactly why he’ll be representing Oklahoma City on February 16 in Chicago.

Paul hit 6 of 10 shots for 17 points in the second half, first leading the Thunder to a double digit lead in the 3rd quarter and then running into a telephone booth to change into his Clutch Paul costume. Down by 7 with 4 minutes on the game clock, Dennis Schroder spearheaded the scoring in the Thunder’s comeback that led to a 99-99 tie with just over a minute left.

That’s when Paul proved yet again he’s the most clutch player in the league this season. On the defensive end, he harassed Kelly Oubre into coughing up the ball and marched right down the court and sunk a patented midrange fadeaway crunch time jumper over last year’s #1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.

Paul would end up scoring 6 points in the final minute and add to his ever-growing league leading 2019-2020 clutch points.

Most importantly, once again, Chris Paul led his team to an improbable comeback victory like he has so many times this season. Booker scored his standard, impressive 27 points but once again came up empty in the most important category.

Booker deserves to be an All Star, and Suns fans have a right to be upset.

But if the young scoring savant is going to end the Suns’ eight year All Star drought, Booker is going to have to do what Chris Paul has been doing for 15 years: win.

Notes:

  • The Thunder are now tied with the Mavs for the 6 seed in the Western Conference standings.
  • The Thunder are closer to the 2 seed than they are the 8 seed.
  • The Thunder have now won 7 straight road games.
  • Since Thanksgiving, the Thunder have the 2nd best record in the NBA at 24-9.
  • Lu Dort started off hot, hitting his first three shots for 7 points in the first quarter. He proceeded to miss his next five attempts. But he continued to show off his manic energy, hustle and defense, the latter resulting in 3 steals on the night.
  • Daily Thunder has moles everywhere. We sent Justin Hickey to the game tonight, and he caught on camera Suns GM James Jones saying “let’s talk” to Sam Presti as they walked together towards a tunnel. Let the conspiracy trade theories begin. And someone please explain to me how DT hooked up Justin with courtside seats at a Suns game while I’ve been stuck sitting by the likes of Jon Hamm at Thunder games.
  • Billy Donovan has been very good this year and is a deserving Coach of the Year candidate, but playing Nader, Diallo and Bazley together for extended minutes in the final quarter of a close game gave me flashbacks of PJ Carlesmo circa 2008.
  • Clutch Paul and Dennis Schroder dominated crunch time to steal this game. Shai hit two big free throws to show he’s got the clutch gene too. Booker, Ayton & Oubre are a talented young Suns trio but the Thunder three headed point guard monster is scary in closing time.
  • Danilo Gallinari with 27 points on 17 shots. Just another ho-hum day at the office for Gallo.
  • Shai struggled with his shot tonight, scoring only 12 points on 16 shots, including 0 for 5 from long range. But he had the team’s best plus minus at +19, made some sharp passes that led to 4 assists, grabbed 9 rebounds and hit a couple of big buckets in the Thunder’s comeback run, one of which was an impossible push-in bank shot off an attempted alley oop from Nerlens Noel.
  • Shai also sank two huge free throws to stretch a 1 point lead to 3 points in the final seconds. While his percentages look bad, and his defense wasn’t all that good, SGA was still vital to the Thunder victory.
  • Up next: the Cavs in OKC on Wednesday night. It’s so far away that it’s basically a pre-All Star break break.

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