Oklahoma City Thunder 122, Phoenix Suns 118 -- Hard-fought loss

Vince Carter hit big threes and scored 29 points, but missed a pair of free-throws as the Suns fell short in OKC. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Phoenix Suns did nearly everything physically possible to leave Oklahoma City with their sixth victory in seven games on Sunday night.

Vince Carter rose from the dead with 29 points, Phoenix drilled 14-of-31 three-point attempts, the bench combined for 60 points including 20 a piece from Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat, and Grant Hill forced Kevin Durant into 3-for-14 shooting.

But despite their hot shooting and Hill’s lockdown defense on the NBA’s leading scorer, the Suns came up short in overtime as they were edged by the Thunder, 122-118.

Regardless of the end result, this was arguably the best the Suns have played in a loss all season long.

The offense was clicking on all cylinders, evident by Phoenix’s 32 assists, and the Suns were a pair of free throws and a defensive stop away from victory lane.

After taking a 91-86 lead into the fourth, Phoenix lost Channing Frye to a dislocated shoulder with 6:28 left in regulation and fell behind 104-97 with three and a half minutes left.

But the Suns fought back down the stretch as Carter forced the game into overtime with a 25-foot triple (his sixth of the game) with nine seconds remaining.

Even when the Suns started overtime with back-to-back turnovers and a missed layup that resulted in a 113-109 Thunder lead, Phoenix bounced right back with consecutive three-pointers from Jared Dudley and Carter to take a 115-113 lead with 1:25 left in overtime.

On the ensuing possession Marcin Gortat blocked Russell Westbrook’s layup and the Suns had the ball, up two, with a minute remaining.

Hill, who went 0-for-6 on the night, missed an open three-pointer with 40 second left and the Thunder stole the momentum as James Harden (26 points) flew in for an And 1 dunk (although there was little to no contact) that put OKC up 116-115.

Hill made an errant pass on the next Phoenix possession and the Suns sent Westbrook, who finished with 32 points and 11 assists, to the line — he shot 18 of the Thunder’s 47 free throws on the night. Westbrook made only one of two and the Suns had a chance to tie or take the lead with 21 seconds.

Alvin Gentry drew up the same play he ran to Frye against New Jersey, only this time the ball went to Carter and he fell to the floor after minimal contact from Thabo Sefelosha and earned a trip to the line with a chance to give the Suns a 118-117 lead.

But Carter, who was Phoenix’s savior up until this point, turned from hero to goat as he missed the last two and the Suns’ near gutty victory turned into defeat. The Suns still had a chance to tie things up down 119-116 with the ball and 15 seconds on the clock, but Steve Nash rushed a deep three with nine seconds left and the Suns left OKC empty-handed.

“That’s where I want to be,” Carter told reporters after the game. “I want to be in a situation where I make plays for the team and clutch free throws. I’m not afraid to fail, but I hate losing at the same time. You can imagine how that is when I get home at night struggling with that.”

Sure, the Suns had no answer for Westbrook’s ferocious drives, allowed 22 points off of 15 turnovers and yielded 48.8 percent shooting, but there a lot of positives that came from Phoenix’s performance. The Suns battled adversity against the West’s No. 4 seed and kept things close despite shooting 33 fewer free throws than the Thunder.

Carter also finally showed signs of life and the bench accounted for over 50 percent of the Suns points. If it weren’t for a missed free throw here or a turnover or foul there, the Suns would be sitting 33-28, still 0.5 game back of the No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies.

But the Suns fell short and the Grizzlies took down the Mavs by one, meaning Phoenix is now 1.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eight seed. All in all, however, the Suns put together a gutty performance and ended a tough road trip 4-2, giving them a lot of confidence as they make their push toward the playoffs.

Frye’s shoulder dislocated

Although the Suns looked very good in tonight’s loss, the biggest negative that came from tonight lies in Frye’s right shoulder. After spinning baseline Frye went up for a layup, but Durant came down across Frye’s right arm, pulling down his arm and bringing his shoulder along with it.

Channing Frye suffered a dislocated shoulder in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Frye was in agony as the hunched over 6-foot-11 forward walked in pain to the locker room.

Frye’s injury came after another stellar performance that included 11 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in 32 minutes of action.

After the game Frye told Paul Coro that his shoulder is “super sore” and that a Monday MRI should set his timetable.

Frye went on to explain the pain further:

“If you could imagine getting stuck on the curb but the curb is back of your shoulder and the tire is the ball of your shoulder,” he said. “Going very fast.”

He’s been one of Phoenix’s most consistent players all season long and if he’s out for an extended period of time, the Suns would be hurting down low.

Not only does Frye space the floor as the Suns’ best three-point shooter, he’s improved greatly on the boards.

His absence would force Robin Lopez and Gortat to play together, make Hakim Warrick a regular rotation player and force Gentry to go small more often.

And 1

With 14 assists Nash passed Isiah Thomas to move into sixth on the NBA’s all-time assists list. Nash also finished with 11 points and only two turnovers, but one proved extremely costly. With the Suns down one with the ball and thus a chance to win in regulation, Nash coughed up the ball as Serge Ibaka and Westbrook trapped hard off the pick and roll. … Based off of Sunday’s game, the Suns did very well in their trade with the Magic earlier this season. Carter, Gortat and Pietrus combined for 69 of the Suns’ 118 points. Carter drilled six threes, which ties a season high. The last time Carter made that many threes was against OKC when he also went 6-for-12 from beyond the arc. … Pietrus tallied his second 20-point game in as many games. His streaky play showed as he hit three triples on three straight possessions, only to jack up back-to-back airballs a few minutes later. Gentry also used Pietrus on Westrbook late in the game, subbing out Nash on defensive possessions.

Tags: Channing Frye Vince Carter

  • A concerned Suns Fan

    Where was the foul calls for the suns the whole night through? the only call I saw going the suns way was the three for vince at the end of OT. Before that, the three point play for harden was completely insane and it felt like the suns were getting pummeled inside with nothing to show for it.

    Just feel like the suns deserved this win after a gutty performance, and if it weren’t for some biased refs, they could have gotten it easily.

  • Mike

    What was Nash thinking with that last 3pt attempt?

    There was so much time left on the clock, Nash could have set things up for a better shot. That was such an ugly, rushed, and long 3pt attempt.

    Did Nash not know there was still lots of time left?

  • http://phz-sicks.bandcamp.com PHZ-Sicks

    I feel every year there is at least one game where the Suns get royally screwed by the refs. Last season, it was a home game against the Lakers and this year, I look at this game. A lot of phantom calls that seem to be almost whenever the Thunder took the ball to the rim where called . Suns, on the other hand, a lot of ‘hard defense’ which would be called fouls anywhere else weren’t called. Due to that, a huge disparity in free throws between both teams. The fact the Suns were so closed shows a lot of heart. If this doesn’t show that we’re a team to be dealt with, I don’t know what does.

  • AJ

    The 33 free-throw attempt disparity was ridiculous. I mean I don’t usually complain about Refs and I understand the Thunder are the #1 FT shooting team, but this is ridiculous, it is not as if the suns were completely non-agressive.

  • LA all da Way!

    Haaaaaaaa! Suns are garbage. Have fun watching all da other teams in April! 3peat baby!

  • Bostonian Suns Fan

    “LA all da Way!”, really? going to another team’s site just to talk trash? stay classy, bro.

  • Beard

    Man that was a hard last 10 mins to watch. They played their asses off and it would have been such a huge win. Vince is clutch and so important to this team. No more hating on Vince.. Support your suns!

  • Mel.

    Ah, it must be March… all the “Laker fans” are actually beginning to watch, having pretty much ignored the first 2/3rds of the season. And that means unsolicited nonsense spammed onto the blogs of teams that don’t have anything to do with LA’s schedule, ‘CUZ YOU CAN’T BLEED PURPLE AND GOLD UNLESS YOU GOT THEM RINGZZZ BRO

    Or whatever. Back to reality–and something worth musing about–how funny would it be if Vince got clocked in the head so hard that it completely changed his disposition? There’s a fantastic script in here, somewhere… possibly starring Eddie Murphy and Cedric the Entertainer.

  • PZ

    Actually, Mike it was a fast paced game with 111 possessions and the Suns’ offensive efficiency was below their average. It’s tough to overcome 41 minutes from Hill without any offense, even if he’s defending.

    And that was an inaccurate description of Nash’s turnover in regulation. The Suns were BEHIND at that point and not trying to hold the ball for a last second shot. Second, Westbrook clearly fouled Nash on the play which forced the turnover. But, that was the theme of the night; a lot of tough officiating.

  • PZ

    “What was Nash thinking with that last 3pt attempt?
    There was so much time left on the clock, Nash could have set things up for a better shot. That was such an ugly, rushed, and long 3pt attempt.
    Did Nash not know there was still lots of time left?”

    -They were down by three points with 9 seconds to go when he shot it and they had no timeouts. They can intentionally foul you and run you off the three point line when they get set. Also if you don’t shoot it quickly you don’t have a chance at a second shot if it you get the rebound. That was the type of shot that teams take in that situation. It would have been very different if they were only down by 2. If you want to second guess it you could argue that Nash shouldn’t have been shooting a shot like that when he’s hurt. I didn’t like the shot because I have very little faith in Nash shooting threes when he’s injured.

  • Steve

    I agree with a lot of what has already been said. I’m not one to say, “The refs lost this game for us,” every time we take a tough loss, but in this case, I think it’s fair to say there were a number of bad calls in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, and the calls went against the Suns in every instance I can think of. It’s a bummer, but if there is such thing as a moral victory in the NBA, this would be one. The Suns did everything they could, but on this night, the refs didn’t want them to have it for whatever reason. Too bad moral victories don’t get you to the playoffs.

  • Mike

    There were no Suns rebounder near the rim when Nash took the shot.

    It looked like Nash was trying to get his defender to foul him in the act of shooting. But the defender was smart enough not to fall for it. Hence, why the shot looked so ugly and was taken so far away.

    The strategy failed.

    As great a PG as Nash is, his offensive game is all pick n’ rolls. For his size, this works. He’s like an older version of Jameer Nelson (Orlando). But because of his small size, he is a liability on defense. Hence why Westbrook was abusing him all night.

  • Phil

    @Mike – I presume you are just trying to be provocative, as otherwise calling Nash on older version of Jameer is one of the more ridiculous statements ever posted on this board.

    I agree with most of the other posters – its hard to win any game with a 33 FT attempt disparity, so an OT loss on the road to a really good team is a pretty good effort. I worry about Frye being out for an extended period though as Lopez has been such a non factor and only Channing really spaces the floor of our big men

  • Jabari

    Did the bloggers get a nasty-gram from Stern saying that fines are coming if they say anything about the refs?

    I mean, really. Durant DISLOCATES FRYE’S SHOULDER, and there was no foul called on that. Ridiculous. And perhaps even more ridiculous that this blog doesn’t even mention it.

    The officiating was horrendous all night, and it cost the Suns the game. The foul call on Harden’s dunk at the end completely changed the ending of that game. Sheesh.

  • Zak

    Whatever you want to blame the loss on, the Suns still played one hell of a great game. They fought to the end – and beyond – and you have to love that. Hopefully Frye will recover soon.

  • pete

    @ LA all da Way! – you’re team was defeated by Cavs. Doesn’t matter if you’re team won by large margin against them. That’s payback for you being stupid!