Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Phoenix Suns 107 — Another fourth quarter struggle

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQEJakEO55g&fs=1&hl=en_US]

PHOENIX — With 3:49 remaining in the third quarter, Vince Carter drained his fifth three-pointer of the game to give him 30 points as he appeared to be on his way to his signature game in a Phoenix uniform.

But Carter scored just three more points in the fourth quarter on 1-for-7 shooting as the Suns went to him time and time again for buckets he failed to deliver on in their 111-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

It’s fair to say the Suns would not have kept up with the Thunder’s pace through three quarters of shootout basketball without Carter going off for his 30 on 10-for-14 shooting as he channeled Vinsanity and made even the biggest Vince haters appreciate his shooting touch in his first 30-point game in almost a year.

But as the Suns kept going to him, his NBA Jam-style hot streak wore off. With 2:07 left he missed a runner in the lane with the Suns up one. Then with 1:18 remaining down two he missed a pretty open three, with 55.9 left down two he could not knock down a designed wide-open look off a Grant Hill screen and then with 34.9 seconds left he missed another wide-open attempt down four after his man fell down.

“It was wide open,” Carter said. “Wide open. Maybe they should have guarded me, I would have made them. That’s all I’ve got for you.”

Added Alvin Gentry about the team’s late-game execution: “I like the shots that we got, we got good shots. We got Vince three wide-open looks that we liked, and we just couldn’t get them in. I thought it was pretty good at the end of the game, we just didn’t make the shots. For us we’ve just got to jump up and make the shots.”

Vince’s 1-for-7 effort highlighted another porous fourth quarter for Phoenix in which the team shot 30 percent as a team (6-for-20), yielded 50 percent shooting from OKC and got outrebounded 17-8.

The turning point to Nash and Hill came with the Suns up two with 4:14 left when Hill was called for a foul on a Durant jumper and then both the aforementioned veterans received strange technicals.

Upon further review, the call in question did appear to be a tough foul on Hill as he failed to keep his arms completely vertical while defending the NBA’s scoring leader.

But Nash got a technical for merely putting his hand on his head in disbelief, without saying a word. Hill then remarked to the refs that Nash didn’t say anything, and for some reason he got T’ed up as well.

For a team to get two technicals in a two-point game with four minutes to go you would think they would have to go all Rasheed Wallace on the refs, but for two guys like Nash and Hill to get rung up without saying anything is really flabbergasting. I would be shocked if the league did not rescind these technicals, but that won’t alter their effect on this basketball game.

“Four free throws at that point of the game for what could have been a good defensive stop and a fast break was tough to overcome,” Nash said.

Added Hill, “I thought the momentum changed on those techs.”

The Suns also could not contain Serge Ibaka down the stretch, as the big man cleaned the glass with two tip-ins and hit a go-ahead turnaround shot to give Oklahoma City the lead for good with 1:52 left after the Suns took a seven-point advantage into the deciding quarter.

But the fourth quarter fun wasn’t over even when the Thunder took a four-point lead with 32.6 left, as Nash and Hill trapped Durant in the corner and forced him into a backcourt violation, a turnover the Suns cashed in with a Nash layup to make this a two-point game with 16.4 left.

One final controversy ensued as Nash and Hill trapped Durant once again. This time Durant chose to dribble out of it and jumped into the air and returned back to the ground with possessions of the ball, which would have been a traveling violation if not for a foul called on Nash by the referee on the opposite side of the court when another ref was standing right in front of the play.

Nash did not make foul-worthy contact with Durant, as this appeared to be the kind of call in which the ref assumes the foul.

“There was minimal contact and he left his feet 40 feet from the basket, and the ref on the other side of the court called a foul,” Nash said. “I don’t know.”

Gentry came away from this one proud of his team’s effort but it certainly stings to see such a winnable game against a very good team go in the loss column when the Suns were so close to reaching the illustrious .500 mark.

This was one of those 50-50 games that just came down to execution on a few possessions down the stretch and the Thunder did a much better job in that regard in what was a tight game throughout.

After getting the benefit of the doubt Sunday when Hill should have been called for a game-tying goal tending violation, the Suns’ luck with the officiating evened out in this one with the bizarre technicals and travel no-call.

It would have been nice for the Suns to tie the Blazers and Grizzlies in the loss column for the eighth and final playoff spot and reach .500 finally in one fell swoop, but even with this loss Phoenix is playing much better basketball after winning three of the final four on this homestand.

“We still have a chance,” Carter said. “There’s a lot of basketball left and I feel like we let this one slip for a lot of reasons, but we’re a very confident bunch. I’m happy to see the frustration here; that means these guys care, we want to win.

“We’re better than we are, that our record shows and we feel like we get a couple of games under our belt, get back into the playoff race and get into the playoffs, anything can happen.”

Tags: Grant Hill Steve Nash Vince Carter

  • Dbreezy

    I know it was rough, but Nash was apparently bucking for that tech. Beforehand. EJ kept saying that Steve needed to calm down and get away from that ref as he was itching to T him up. Piecing that together with one of Coro’s tweets that Nash called the ref a ‘f’ing ck scker’ on an earlier play, I’m betting EJ heard the exchange and the refs response but couldn’t give us those details on the air. He sure didn’t seem that shocked at the T.

  • HankS

    This glass is definitely half-full. The Thunder is a young, up-and-coming team with a couple of All-Stars including the NBA scoring leader, while the Suns are supposed to be old, mismatched and doomed to lottery. Yet they kept the pace and came this close to actually winning the game.

    That proves the Suns can challenge pretty much anybody.

    There’re still many games left, and possibly a trade, too, so if the Suns stay reasonably healthy, there’s no reason why the rest of the season shouldn’t be fun.

  • shawn

    We play golden state back to back which should get us back to. 500 so I’m still happy after last night. Lets go suns !!! Oh and as long as they don’t let Vince go all Kobe Bryant again in the 4th quater we should be fine.

  • elway

    The teams record is misleading. Hopefully they make a trade for a true PF and i feel like this team has a legitimate chance..

  • Mel.

    LOL. Dbreezy, I’m just trying to imagine those words coming out of Nash’s mouth… I mean, I’m sure he gets every bit as down and dirty as anybody else on the court, but I always framed his brand of trash-talk as being something like…

    “Hey, I would appreciate it if you’d watch the game closer, ref. You might be missing things.”


    “The ball sure missed the basket that time. That’s got to feel good, right? I’m being sarcastic.”

  • yogi

    So no love for vince after 33 points?

  • Zak

    Everyone please just give up on the hope for a trade for a dominant PF before the trade deadline this year. I’d love for it to happen too but who are the Suns going to trade for this mythical PF? And who might be willing to give up such a valuable player for what the Suns have to offer? To get a high impact PF the Suns would just have to trade away too much and would wind up STILL a team that might make the eighth seed in the playoffs. Our best trade chips are Nash, Gortat and Hill. Plenty of teams would love to have Nash but they’re not willing to give us much back in return. As good as Steve is playing right now, no team is going to give us a YOUNG star player for him. Same reasoning goes for Hill. Some teams would love to have him but they won’t be willing to mortgage their futures to get him. Gortat is plenty good and young enough to maybe get us that PF that everyone wants but at best that would put the Suns back where they were last season. People keep talking about trading Vince Carter and while his expiring contract may seem like an enticement, he CAN’T be traded this year in a multi-player trade. Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is according to the NBA player trade rules. For those who keep calling for a trade for a PF, go to the ESPN website, click on the NBA “Trade Machine” and see what you can come up with. Yep, you can easily come up with LOTS of trades that get that great PF to Phoenix BUT… once you’ve found a trade that actually works, put yourself in the shoes of the OTHER team and decide whether the trade makes any sense for THEM. I think Phoenix is done trading for the season. The team we have now is finally starting to come together and play up to their potential. They’re not all the way there yet but I think they’re on the right track. I doubt the Suns will make the playoffs this year unless Denver finally works out some sort of mid-season trade for Mello to NY. They will tank and the Suns could slip into the eighth seed. Otherwise let’s all just enjoy watching Steve’s magic on the court even when we loose. There may not even be a season next year the way the CBA negotiations are going so enjoy it all while you can!

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ yogi – Vince had all the love he could take through 3 quarters. It was almost an orgy.

    Then, in the fourth, you know.. when it counted, he faded away without much noise like a Jordan 18ft jumper with the Wizards.

    It was painful to watch. Obviously the Suns were going to him, (even giving him play after play), and he simply could not deliver when it counted.

    I think that’s what they were saying in Toronto and Jersey, right?

    @Zach – enter key buddy. enter key.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Zak even – too much trading barbs with Harper on DDL, sorry.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Mel Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think this was exactly the first time Nash has said something like this. I remember one game this season in particular that Nash said something that would make a rapper blush.

  • Nash_rules

    A few notes regarding Suns last games: (this is my signature line btw :)

    1. Frye is not unidimensional after all!! He has toughness and ba**s in him, just check the garnett incident. Also, there are some intriguing plays he’s making lately down in the post, which expands his game – not only a streaky 3 pointer;

    2. Like all students with good potential, there are some steps back along with going forward. Gortat never played consistent minutes for a long period of time in a season and, although he makes bad decisions still, there is a vast room for improvement within the polish hammer planet;

    3. Against Durantula&Co they should have diversified the shots in the 4th quarter, they put all the pressure on Vince Carter and he crumbled in crunch time, it was “a Crashter moment” I guess. I agree when you say in the video that Nash should have got more shots… 2-time cannot just stare and watch a possible win just vanish like that, you’re the boss Nash: Remember, even at 37, you still rule rocking the rock around!!! Happy birthday to one of the most intelligent sharp shooters and assists man in the history of the league!