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.
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.
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.