Some judge sport by the eye test. Does a team look good? Do the players try hard? What does the feel and the body language say of the final outcome? Others take a more analytic approach. What do the numbers say? What should the numbers say?
No matter how you slice it on Friday night, the Phoenix Suns were flat out terrible in a 127-96 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road as the Thunder used a 21-0 run in the third quarter to make it a laugher.
Calling it “total annihilation” is a redundant way to describe it since annihilation includes total destruction. But on Friday, it’s needed for emphasis.
What’s the eye test say? When Kendrick Perkins is toasting the Suns for 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks while holding Marcin Gortat to two points and five rebounds – all while hitting 18-foot jumpers, mind you – there was no shot Phoenix would have a chance. When Thabo Sefolosha scores 18 and hits 4-of-6 three-point jumpers, it’s the same deal. Perry Jones III saw playing time and threw down two dunks upon entering in the fourth quarter. And when there’s a technical foul with six Suns players on the court and six minutes left in the third quarter, it was time to mail in a Suns loss.
How about the numbers of it all? In the third quarter, the Thunder outscored Phoenix 36-20 while shooting 54.2 percent, then gave it to a snoozing Suns bench in the fourth by shooting a ridiculous 72.7 percent and scoring 22 points in the paint during the final quarter alone.
Oklahoma City shot 57.5 percent for the game by scoring 62 points in the paint, 42 more behind the three-point arc and 13 at the foul stripe. For anyone new to the sport of basketball, that would be the complete opposite of any gameplan; making a team shoot contested, long two-point shots. Do the math or look at the shotchart (below); the Suns only allowed 10 POINTS of 127 that on paper might be considered anything resembling long two-pointers.
Durant led the Thunder with 21 easy points including what appeared to be a fadeaway dunk attempt over Markieff Morris. Russell Westbrook put up 17 points and was equaled by Goran Dragic, who scored 16 first-quarter points on 10 shots and put the Oklahoma City All-Star in foul trouble.
The problem, though was that Dragic scored 16 of the team’s 27 first-quarter points. He only took four total shots in the last three quarters.
Meanwhile, Phoenix allowed the Thunder to hit 14-of-21 three-pointers on the night. The Suns turned it over 17 times and one of the best teams at capitalizing on miscues poured in 29 points from those.
The Thunder used selfless passing – six players recorded three or more assists – as the Suns withered away once Dragic was taken out of it. Like Oklahoma City had done before, they waited until the beginning of the second half to finally pull away, as the Suns only trailed 55-50 at halftime and were shooting 53.5 percent at the half to the Thunder’s 51.2.
Pride drives the NBA’s best. Kevin Durant, in the same mold of NBA greats and backing up his new “Not Nice” ad campaign, somehow found a burning hate for even the lowly Suns.
To be fair, displaying any fight or any attempt at a response requires talent that the Suns just might not have. But in the loss on Friday, Phoenix wilted outside of a first-quarter explosion by Dragic, perhaps Michael Beasley’s 25 points in 29 minutes and perhaps Jermaine O’Neal’s 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
It’s important to mention the obvious. Oklahoma City is a very good team, and to the Thunder’s credit, the players didn’t show signs of cruising or flatness against the struggling Suns. The Thunder actually jumped out to a 7-0 score before Dragic started attacking. It also limited Phoenix role players, as Luis Scola rarely found himself open for his patented mid-range jumpers. He went 1-of-6, and Jared Dudley likewise only got three shots up on Friday. And the Thunder adjusted to make Dragic less of a scorer.
The game plan probably won’t change much for the second game against the same Suns team on Sunday in Phoenix.
About the only thing that can change is perhaps the Suns’ will. Whether it was stifled because the Thunder was simply better or because there wasn’t enough pride on Friday doesn’t matter. Another embarrassing outcome will happen if something doesn’t change.