Oklahoma City Thunder 114, Phoenix Suns 96 — Talent wins out

Posted by on December 31st, 8:55 pm

Until the clock struck 5:00 in the fourth quarter on Monday, the fans in Chesapeake Energy Arena and the Oklahoma City Thunder team itself appeared bored with the Phoenix Suns.

When the clock hit 0:00, the Thunder had pulled out a 114-96 home win after finally turning on the jets late and making what was far from one of the worst performances by the Suns on the year look lackluster at best.

Kevin Durant finished with 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, and Suns forward P.J. Tucker made his first start to help defend the fellow Texas Longhorn (the Suns’ defensive ace taking Shannon Brown’s starting slot is nothing permanent, as Paul Coro reported before the game). Russell Westbrook added 24 points and nine assists.

The Suns got a 24-point performance from Luis Scola, and Marcin Gortat added 12 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t that Phoenix played poorly so much as the Thunder picked one spot to finally get a firm grasp on the game and another to put the Suns away.

Despite personal foul issues for the Suns frontcourt in the first half, head coach Alvin Gentry refused to go deep into the bench as the game remained close. Jermaine O’Neal and Tucker picked up three personal fouls in the first half, while Scola and Gortat each had two fouls going into halftime.

Because O’Neal had the hot hand in the first half, Gentry even rolled with a two-center lineup for a few minutes as Gortat reentered in the second quarter.

Michael Beasley didn’t play — Tucker and O’Neal ate up most of those available minutes — and Sebastian Telfair was productive despite suffering from flu-like symptoms. He led the team with nine first-half points and finished with nine as the Suns trailed 54-53 at halftime.

Finding themselves down by seven points a couple of times in the first half, Phoenix appeared about to give up one of those patented runs to one of the best teams in the NBA. Each time, however, they would avoid any deep wounds.

That trend ended in the second half.

Oklahoma City started the third quarter on a 12-0 run to force Gentry into a timeout less than four minutes into the period.

All of a sudden, the flood gates had opened, and while it was momentary, it was the first of two big runs the Thunder would put on Phoenix in the game. The Suns came out of the timeout more focused and won the final 8:22 of the third to trail 84-78 going into the fourth quarter. Scola was the main reason for that, as the power forward had 14 points in the quarter.

Phoenix came within two points, 87-85, with nine minutes to play, but the Thunder turned it on then-forth, outscoring the Suns 29-13 the rest of the way to beat them 30-18 in the final period.

In the Thunder runs, the Suns succumbed to turnovers. They had 15 total turnovers on the evening but that resulted in 17 points for Scott Brooks’ team.

Thirteen of those points came in the second half, and compared to the Suns’ scoring just four points off five total Thunder turnovers, the Oklahoma City defense was once again what won the Thunder a game that, otherwise, appeared to be a walk in the park.

Again, the Suns’ problem could very well be the talent level. They weren’t poor offensively and actually moved the ball as well as any game in recent memory for the first 38 minutes of the game. Phoenix hit 47.4 percent of its field goals, and got open three-point looks they generally didn’t hit, making eight of the 24 opportunities.

They did a decent job of winning the bench totals (30 points to 26 by Oklahoma City), as O’Neal led the way with 12 points and five rebounds. But it’s a bad sign for an NBA team one night before the year 2013 to have its fourth-quarter offense being run through O’Neal, and it’s a bad sign when one of the league’s bench scorers, Kevin Martin, scores six on 2-of-12 shooting yet has his team easily roll.

As has been the case during the now six-game losing streak, Phoenix broke down when it mattered most, making a solid outing for the most part look poor when the score went final.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap

39 responses so far ↓

  • 1 SHAZAM // Dec 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    i highly recommend the movie “killing them softly”….didnt do well at the box office but its a fantastic movie

  • 2 Dave // Dec 31, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Gentrys lineups don’t help . Pj tucker tries hard and can defend players like Caron Butler,but 40 minutes with only 6 rebs and making a couple shots for 7 points and 0 assists is not NBA caliber. And Durant still got a easy 30 . Let’s face it KD and the thunder were just taking it easy in the first half . Durant wasn’t even looking for his shot early.I m not on the tucker bandwagon, there’s plenty of players in college that hustle and play hard defense, but they don’t make the NBA because its a whole new level of SKILL. The reason why the suns lost the last five wasn’t the lineup , its because the team in not good . There’s no other answer, Gentry is grasping for straws and probably bringing the level of his teams play down with shifts in the rotation every night . Stick with your guns ,win or lose with the logical lineup and try to look competitive.( Gentry)

  • 3 Anonymous // Dec 31, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    There goes beasley

  • 4 Luka // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I’m glad Gentry didn’t play Beasley. Beasley is on his way out of Phoenix. I’ve got a distinct feeling his departure has been discussed internally. At this point no trade should be off limits. Hopefully the Suns can get a defensive SG/SF by the deadline.

    Until management can secure a star via free agency or the draft, the Suns are cellar dwellers. I’m personally hoping that this is a prelude to Sarver selling the team and leaving town for good.

  • 5 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:56 am

    We competed throughout. It was closer than the final score indicated. This was aided by keeping Beasley out of the game and putting a muzzle on Brown as soon as he bricked his first three. Keep the muzzle on Brown and keep Beasley out of the game. Let the rest of them compete. Maybe they can send Beasley to Brooklyn to replace Childress. Would be fitting. And remember “Fargo”. Babby should go into the maw of that wood-chipping machine.

  • 6 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:59 am

    Beasley is histor. Outer Mongolia will have a team in the Chinese League next year. He may even see Allen once or twice. What, practice??? How am I gonna make my teammates better by practicing ???

  • 7 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Hint to Beasley: MJ is quite illegal in Outer Mongolia.

  • 8 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Maybe Sarver can sell out and run a successfull string of whorehouses in TJ. Just sayin.

  • 9 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:07 am

    I would rather have Meeks here and brick 11 per game than have Brown here and brick nine. Just me. Weirdo I guess. Had enough of Brown already.

  • 10 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:10 am

    At this point I give up on asking 2000 pounds of high grade pot for Beasley. I would settle for 5 overripe overcooked turkeys from Goodwill Industries.

  • 11 bill.thomas // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:28 am

    TURKEYS !!!!!!!!! GET IT ????

  • 12 Luka // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Sarver needs to take a page from the Cardinals book and fire Blanks, Babby, Gentry, and Treloar. This nonsense has gone on long enough.

  • 13 Luka // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:32 am

    While we’re at it fire Majerle too. All he does is drink on the job.

  • 14 Shabuzz Muhammad // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Hey Phoenix,

    Draft me and I’ll help you win.

    - Shabuzz

  • 15 Tom Gugliotta // Jan 1, 2013 at 1:36 am

    I’m still a free agent.

  • 16 Dan Majerle // Jan 1, 2013 at 2:18 am

    i never drink more than a couple of six packs before a game or practice..im a big guy so thats not too much

  • 17 SHAZAM // Jan 1, 2013 at 2:26 am

    i agree with thunder dan…do you know how he got his nic name?…al mccoy was in the locker room and heard these loud boom noises and asked whats that?..paul westphal said “oh thats the rookie sitting on the toilet over there”…after the flush al saw majerle walk out of the stall…side note ( he didnt wash his hands )

  • 18 Barack Obama // Jan 1, 2013 at 2:32 am

    yes we can..time for change..what does the phoenix suns and a thunder dan turd have in common? the answer is everything

  • 19 SHAZAM // Jan 1, 2013 at 2:37 am

    hmmm its come down to favorite movies,impersonating celebrities for slanderous purposes and poop jokes..thats when you know your team stinks..happy new year

  • 20 Jake Tsakalidis // Jan 1, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Hello every Suns fans. I will still like to play the basketball. Even for the bench, to help team win.

  • 21 Mike D'Antoni // Jan 1, 2013 at 5:06 am

    If the ball goes through the net, we’re a pretty good team.

  • 22 JR // Jan 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

    @SHAZAM

    if u like sci-fi, here’s a good list
    http://www.classreal.com/index_year.php

  • 23 azbballfan // Jan 1, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I am a die hard Suns fan, but its hard to feel positive right now.

    Given the fact that no one except the Suns wanted Beasley in the offseason, i dont think he going anywhere unless the Suns buy him out.

    I dont think changing coaches is gonna solve the problem either.

    I think the problem is we have too high expectations for this team

    if you look at the salaries of this team, we are like 29 out of the 30 teams in how much $$$ we spend on players

    hardly anyone on this team is going to be here 3 years from now.

    The Suns are the least talented team in the leauge and are playing like it!

    Other teams in the NBA are bad, but they have lots of young, lottery talent on their roster.

    our last few lotto picks dont play for us anymore

    and our last two barely play at all.

    I think if you dont get rid of babby and blanks, the only thing thats gonna really happen is this rebuilding process will just take longer.

    That sounds about right to me, cause unless you have a plan in place and develop talent, and get lucky in a draft, your not gonna have alot of success.

    and really, you can do all the socuting you want, but sometimes it just comes down to luck.

    how good would the Bulls be if the ping pong balls went the way they usually do the and the team with the best record that didnt make the playoffs didnt win the lotto?

    the Bulls had a 1 percent chance to get Rose!

    The Suns are right where they are supposed to be, so unless the FO wants to plan for the future, there gonna be that way for a while

  • 24 Luka // Jan 1, 2013 at 7:56 am

    @Azbballfan

    The sad part is the Suns have ignored the draft for the better part of a decade.

    Deng, Rondo, Hibbert, Fernandez, or Faried sure would’ve helped this team about now.

    The best thing for this franchise is for this endless loop of insanity to continue. Hopefully when the losing becomes too much, Sarver will give up and sell the team.

  • 25 azbballfan // Jan 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Oops i see a made some errors in spelling in my last post

    but yeah, teams that ignore the draft never win titles

    who have the Suns drafted in the last 10 years that became an all star while on the team?

    Stoudemire only one i can think of

  • 26 SHAZAM // Jan 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

    thanks jr..love sci fi …back when i was an actor i was the lead murder suspect in the x-files..my characters name was dr. blockhead…season 2 humbug episode

  • 27 hawki // Jan 1, 2013 at 10:48 am

    oh for the days of Georgi Glouchkov….

  • 28 peter // Jan 1, 2013 at 11:03 am

    interesting (or desperate) that move with two centers, pity that Gentry gave up this so fast, it could work, certainly in defense

  • 29 Cam // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    They need to move Gortat, Telfair, and Dudley. Those three are playing well and the Suns could get something of value. Maybe they should inquire about Cousins or see what they can get out of Boston. If they offered Sactown one of the Lakers’ 1st and 2nd rounders they may be able to get that head case. Boston needs a center, see what they might be willing to throw back to the Suns. Maybe the Suns should obtain a crazy amount of 1st round picks, and use those picks to move up in the draft these next two years to get some studs. Get a couple high lottery picks and see what a young team can do. Go Suns.

  • 30 Cam // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Correction: Gortat and a Lakers 1st and 2nd to Sactown.

  • 31 Cam // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Beasley and Cousins in the same locker room. FTW. Go Suns.

  • 32 Russell Suns fan // Jan 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Shabuzz Muhammad says:
    “Hey Phoenix,
    Draft me and I’ll help you win.
    - Shabuzz”

    Really Shabuzz? You mean the was Derrick Williams promised to help Minny win, and can’t even get off the bench. Or is it the way Wesley Johnson promised to help win games, or is it the Way Beasley promised to be as good as Durant??

    The reality of the top 5 is that it much more often a complete bust vs. actually helping win. What OKC did happens once every decade, you can’t build on top 5 picks only. Doesn’t work.

    This team should have traded everything OKC wanted for Harden, instead they weren’t willing to offer too much. Why didn’t we offer all our 3 first round picks from this years draft? It’s a weak draft class anyway, we could have added a 4th first round pick, a future pick, plus package Dudley and Morris, and Marshall this could have easily beaten the offer Houston made. But now we have No Harden, no foundation. No team.

  • 33 Artur Mascarenhas // Jan 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Beasley for Bargnani… who says “no” faster?

  • 34 Artur Mascarenhas // Jan 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I would love this http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=bk2vgwj

  • 35 Michael // Jan 1, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    We won’t be able to trade Beasley. No one except our dumb FO wanted to sign him as a free agent, so why should any team trade for him?
    Dudley and Gortat, maybe the expiring contracts of Johnson and Bassy, are the players we could use for rebuilding. But you have to trade wisely, and that’s where it gets tricky. I cannot imagine our FO is able to do so.
    Dudley and Gortat have massive value, their contracts are extremely charming, so you can ask for a real good package in return.
    I love Dudley and would only trade him in case a long term positive outcome would be assured. The rumours of Dudley vs. Williams are all but this type of trade. Though it would be a typical Suns trade, where you give away your best pieces and get back nothing but expensive bench warmers without any upside potential…
    Ask for (nearly) unprotected 1st rounders and young players that will surely develop and help the team in 2014 and later on (can’t stop thinking of Avery Bradley) with high basketball IQ and a respectable character (like Dudley, and very much unlike Beasley, Cousins…).
    Additionally FO have to make clear how to use Dragic in the future (stop the Nash 2.0 bla-bla, PG or SG), whether or not there is a plan to develop Marshall (otherwise trade him), whether or not there’s a plan to establish Morris as the starting PF/ backup PF, trade mass, talk to Oneal whether or not he’s willing to stay another season and then go for a young C prospect (either via trade or via draft).
    Basically I don’t care of the results for the next 1,5 seasons as long as I can see those questions are answered and the franchise is heading to any direction.
    But for now it’s pure chaos, and that hurts…

  • 36 JR // Jan 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    @SHAZAM

    usually i don’t believe in what people say on internet, for example i don’t think that Obama or D’Antoni posted those comment above, but your very specific and i’m a bit drunk right now, so ok i believe that you were on x files, btw scene when you feed guy with bees was pretty cool :)

  • 37 SHAZAM // Jan 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    jr it was crickets but close enough

  • 38 JR // Jan 2, 2013 at 5:44 am

    ye, i was a bit suspicious about those bees, they weren’t stinging or flying or buzzing

  • 39 Preview: Oklahama City Thunder (29-8) at Phoenix Suns (13-26) // Jan 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

    [...] Suns. Phoenix hasn’t beaten Scott Brooks and Co. since December 2010 and while it hung tough in Oklahoma City two weeks ago, the two teams couldn’t be further apart at this point in the [...]

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