Suns 106, Thunder 95 – The skid is over (finally)

It took a late run by LB to seal it, but a win is a win nonetheless. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

It took a late run by LB to seal it, but a win is a win nonetheless. (AP/Paul Connors)

A win is a win. 

That’s what we’ve got to keep telling ourselves at least.

It sure wasn’t pretty, as the game Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder was close all the way through, but in the end, Phoenix came away victorious, 106-95.

There were a few bright spots.  One was that Jared Dudley played very well, amassing seven points and seven rebounds in the final period, to finish with nine and nine, two steals, and a block. The other was that the Suns won the fourth quarter by 11, something foreign to the team lately. 

The main issue I’ve noticed in the just-completed six-game losing streak was the inability to close out games, mostly an issue with poor defense in the final minutes. 

This time around the Suns managed to hold the Thunder under 100 points, at 46 percent shooting on the night.  All this came in Kevin Durant’s return to the lineup, against a team that came in winning five of its last seven, albeit all without him.

“It is a big win, it is a big win,” Alvin Gentry told Suns.com.  “We have been struggling and we lose six in a row and that team had been playing good basketball. We knew that it would be a tough game, it would be a struggle to get through, but we kind of hung in there and had some big plays.”

Still, many troubling issues surfaced in the game.  Steve Nash turned the ball over seven times.  Jason Richardson and Shaquille O’Neal combined for just 18 points.  It took a great run by Leandro Barbosa (scoring 11 in the final half of the fourth quarter) to seal the game against a team that only has 18 wins on the year.

The Suns were awfully close to another one of those horrible losses that makes you wish it were D-backs season already.  The Thunder turned the ball over 21 times, which certainly helped.  This was less of a Suns win than a Thunder loss.  But that’s OK, a win is a win, right?

“We played OK – it wasn’t one of our best games – but we just gutted it out in the second half,” Shaq told Suns.com. “Alvin kind of got on us in the first half, but we picked it up a little bit. LB hit some incredible shots, Steve hit some incredible shots, and we came away with a win.”

The Suns are now five games out of that eighth spot, with the tiniest ray of hope as they enter an easy part of the schedule.  Dallas’ loss Friday coupled with tonight’s win almost erases that loss to the Mavericks, sans the tiebreaker implications.  Phoenix faces Golden State Sunday, then comes home for Philadelphia and Washington next week, all while getting some much-needed time off.

Soon, the Suns will face an interesting predicament.  At what point do you call it game over and not necessarily “tank,” but maybe cut Nash and Shaq down a bit and give the Goran Dragics and Robin Lopezs a little more burn?  That will be tough to judge for sure, especially if Dallas can win a few more games quickly.

It certainly doesn’t look good, but it also isn’t over.  After all, the Mavericks play playoff or nearly playoff teams in their next four contests and there is one final head-to-head matchup in April. 

Still, the Suns DID play this same Thunder team (with a healthy Durant, too) just a few weeks ago, and crushed them in Amar’e’s first game out. 

That’s troubling, very troubling.

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Tags: Jared Dudley Leandro Barbosa

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