Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder (49-24) at Phoenix Suns (36-37)

Oklahoma City Thunder 116, Phoenix Suns 98

Thunder

Suns

Blame Steve Nash’s pelvic instability. Blame Channing Frye’s shoulder. Blame the roster turnover. Blame Vince Carter. Blame Robin Lopez.

There’s no shortage of players to point the finger at for the Phoenix Suns’ disappointing, playoff-less season.

But despite all of the trades, injuries and regression, this roster is surely talented enough to sneak into the Western Conference playoff race, meaning the only person for the Suns to blame is themselves.

They’ve shot themselves in the foot far too many times to deserve a playoff spot, and it’s reared its ugly head most recently over the course of the last three games. In the final two minutes of each of their last three games (all losses against the Hornets, Mavs and Kings in succession), the Suns have been outscored by a combined 25-11.

There’s no one to turn to offensively and the Suns give away games on a regular basis, which is clearly the difference between being a playoff team and on the outside looking in. As they trail Memphis by 4 1/2 games with only 11 contests remaining, Phoenix will surely (but not mathematically) be on the outside looking in for only the third time since the 1998-99 season.

The end of the Nash era is looming and the plan of essentially rebuilding while staying successful is quickly turning into strictly rebuilding. There would be a lot to look forward to if Phoenix’s best player wasn’t 37, and they didn’t give away their former point guard of the future (Goran Dragic) as well as a first-round pick at the trade deadline.

Suns fans finally have to face a harsh reality. This team isn’t going to sneak into the playoffs and make a deep run like it did last year. Nash may not be coming back next season, and if he does, he doesn’t seem like the age-defying guard he was earlier in the year.

Marcin Gortat and Frye’s development are the two saving grace’s from this season, but the reality of finally rebuilding with a brand new nucleus and making sub-.500 seasons the norm is quickly inhibiting Phoenix. Long gone are the improbable playoff victories. Long gone is the NBA’s best offense.

This year is finally that transition year the Suns were dreading. There’s still a miracle to be had if the Suns can top the Oklahoma City Thunder at home tonight and somehow win out while Memphis and Houston collapse, but that’s about as unlikely as Vince Carter wearing purple and orange next season.

So it’s time for Suns fans to finally face this harsh reality: Get used to this roster of mid-level, decent-contract players and hope that Robert Sarver finally believes in drafting young talent, and Phoenix picks up someone it can build around for the future.

Yes, this post is as deflating as a Suns fourth quarter against the Kings, but it’s reality and even the team is beginning to realize it.

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