Oklahoma City 97, Phoenix Suns 69 — A low of lows

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook, right, dunks over Phoenix Suns' Jermaine O'Neal (20) during the first half in an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, right, dunks over Phoenix Suns’ Jermaine O’Neal (20) during the first half in an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — 48 hours and a return to retro threads didn’t change much at US Airways Center, other than reaffirming how big the gap is between the reigning Western Conference champions and the painfully overmatched Phoenix Suns.

Fresh off Friday’s 127-96 throttling of Phoenix, a less-than-stellar Thunder squad had no problem in their final trip to the Valley in 2012-13, using two big runs to end the first (8-2) and second quarters (16-2) en route to a season sweep-clinching 97-69 win

Phoenix’s 69 total points were the second fewest in franchise history, falling just one point shy of the record set against the Kansas City Kings back in 1981.

“Where do I start?” interim head coach Lindsey Hunter posed to the media following the embarrassing 28-point rout. “We got that out of the way, hopefully. It’s not a secret what happened. I think everybody saw we were outplayed in every aspect of the game. You look at games like that and you take it for what it’s worth.”

Two days removed from his best offensive performance of the season, Thabo Sefolosha had no problem seeing purple and orange, and for that matter black, again. Oklahoma City’s shooting guard took full advantage of open corner jump shots, and scored 11 of his season-high 20 points during a game-changing second quarter.

Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer at 29.1 points per game, was not in attack mode (18 points on 6-of-11 from the field) at the offensive end, but he didn’t have to be. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined for five blocks, Russell Westbrook added 24 points and Scott Brooks found plenty of time to play his reserves for the second consecutive contest.

The Suns continue to try and embrace Hunter’s desire to play through the post, however it’s becoming more and more apparent that they simply don’t have the personnel to function inside-out. In its worst scoring first half of the season (34 points), Phoenix took 29 shots in the paint, yet Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola combined for six points on 2-of-10 shooting. To add insult to injury, Oklahoma City blocked six shots and had only three personal fouls through the first 24 minutes of play.

And while it might not be music to the ears of fans around the Valley, Jared Dudley’s playing time continues to dwindle since Alvin Gentry’s departure.

In the first half, Dudley played a little less than nine minutes, as Hunter opted to play Beasley big minutes (15:39). With Phoenix facing a huge deficit to begin the third quarter, Hunter tried to take a page out of the book he used in the team’s road win over Memphis: two point guards, one forward and two bigs.

The only problem for Hunter and Co. was that Oklahoma City had no problems facing an offense that featured Tucker and rookie Kendall Marshall on the perimeter.  Phoenix briefly cut the Thunder’s lead to 15, but Oklahoma went on cruise control for the better part of the second half and notched their 10th straight victory over the Suns dating back to December 19, 2010.

“I can’t control playing time,”said Dudley, who sat out the final two quarters. “When I’m out there I’m going to play the right way. I’m not going to just throw up shots because we’re losing. That’s not my style of play. Coaches are paid to coach and I’m paid to play, so when I’m out there I’m going to give 100 percent.”

During his pregame media session, Hunter said the biggest difference between the two teams was the Thunder’s championship-caliber intensity, and boy did he ever foreshadow Sunday’s lob-sided affair. Aside from their woes in the paint, the Suns failed to illustrate any sense of urgency despite facing one of the league’s best teams.

From dreadful perimeter defense to numerous missed layups to boneheaded turnovers (shot clock violations and passes with no direct targets just to name a few), the Suns never even gave themselves a chance to stay competitive against Oklahoma City and appeared apathetic throughout.

“You always expect if you got in a fight to come back the next day and put up a better effort,” said Dudley. “And obviously today was the same [as last game] if not worse because you’re at home and following what just occurred Friday.

“I’m definitely embarrassed. You’ve got to play better than that. If I could I would give the fans back their money.”

After losing back-to-back games to the Thunder by a staggering 59 points, the question remains where does Phoenix even go from here?

“You move on,” said Hunter. “We have to start getting ready for the Lakers. That is over with. I look at it as one game and I told the guys, ‘it’s one game.’ I have seen worse. I have been part of worse.”

And 1…

  • The Suns starters set a new season-low for total combined points with 26. The previous mark was set Friday against Oklahoma City (30) and before that in the team’s 40-point loss to Detroit (33) back on November 28.
  • Lindsey Hunter noted before Sunday’s contest that he had been reading legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh’s book on leadership philosophy. Hunter, who played under the likes of Phil Jackson and Larry Brown, said he had also previously read Tony Dungy’s “Quiet Strength”. While Hunter’s coaching career is still on the ground floor, he said the  methods to their madness are still applicable to his current situation.
  • While Phoenix narrowly avoided one franchise-low against Oklahoma City, they couldn’t avoid history entirely. The Thunder’s seven personal fouls were the fewest by a Suns opponent since the organization’s inception in 1968.

Tags: Jared Dudley Lindsey Hunter Oklahoma City Thunder Phoenix Suns Recap

  • ojai1980

    Whether the Suns win or lose, I’m going to root for them. It just sucks because the disparity between the Suns and the top teams in the league just seems so vast. Sometimes I wonder, how long is it going to take for the Suns to become a top tier team again. Hopefully Dudley can get some minutes again, he deserves them, Gortat can get his game on track, his value is dropping every game, and the Suns can start to play with more consistency. Right now all this team is is consistently inconsistent. Go Suns.

  • ojai1980

    The Suns got Rickrolled tonight! Go Suns

  • BoomShakaLuka

    Looks like the Suns have quit. It’s your move now management. I’d start by trading: Gortat, Morris, Marshall, and Brown if possible. They may need to include the LA pick. Hopefully, the Suns can get an expiring contract, and a young prospect in return. I still like sending Gortat and the LA pick to Charlotte for Diop’s expiring deal, and Biyombo. Then the Suns have to draft Muhammad at 4 or 5. Sign Monta Ellis to a 5 year $60 million dollar deal. Sign Millsap 5 years and $50 million.

    • https://twitter.com/True_Rys Rich_Anthony

      @BoomShakaLuka There is no need to trade Brown.  He is gone after the season regardless.  Why trade Marshall, and at this stage, who is going to view him as an asset? Morris isn’t bad.  He just hasn’t developed.
      It’s funny.  People are starting to talk about Earl Clark in LA.  How many years has it been now and he’s just now beginning to develop the IQ for the game and partner that with his natural ability.
      People also call for PHX to grow it’s own players, yet at every turn you guys are wanting to trade away our young draft picks.
      Then you want to bring in Black Hole Ellis and Millsap at 5 years / 110 million dollars to go along with Beasley’s contract leading into seasons where the new salary cap crushes teams with full force.
      Those moves do not make PHX a contender.  They restrict the flexibility of the franchise financially moving forward without any sort of hope for contention.

      • BoomShakaLuka

        Michael Beasley won’t be around past next season. His final year isn’t guaranteed.
        I think Ellis and Dragic would compliment each other well.
        Dragic can just focus on the occasional pick and roll, instead of being expected to create for everybody else.

  • the real shazam

    “shame”-the real shazam

  • lbst405

    Good game Suns better luck next season! Thunder Up!

    • http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee256/Dedded/vulture.jpg Barry Amenema

      @lbst405 Quit bothering these nice people and get home… or don’t you remember your history?

  • https://twitter.com/True_Rys Rich_Anthony

    Crystal clear is the picture coach Hunter is trying to present.  I don’t know if it will keep him head coach after this season as other available candidates are far superior at paining the same picture in terms of coaching philosophy right now.
    One of the top 3 teams in the league obliterated the Suns twice in a few days.  No surprise here. None at all.
    I don’t even care If players like THORTAT?!?! or Oneal have checked out for the season.  It’s obvious that just about every veteran not named Dragon is being shopped right now.  I wish they’d continue to play hard because it’d be easier to trade them if they were producing, but whatever.
    Scola has to be here for the entire season, so you may as well play him.  Otherwise, continue to put the youngsters out there to see how they progress under this new system.  Work the trade winds and pull the trigger on deals as long as they don’t cost us first round picks or result in us taking back crazy salary.
    Expiring contracts or un-guaranteed contracts for next season and 2nd round draft picks this year.  Even super-late first round picks from contenders in exchange for the likes of Dudley, Gortat, etc.
    This season is a wash – a transition season, so we may as well roll with it.

    • BoomShakaLuka

      You’re starting to sound like Lon Babby.

    • BoomShakaLuka

      You are starting to sound like Lon Babby.

  • Lon_Babby

    First, I just want to say that no we aren’t trading Marcin Gortat. Secondly, I feel that the worst thing you can do is these situations is panic. We as a front office, and collectively as a basketball team must come together. Transitions are never easy, and we are no doubt going through one now. Lindsey Hunter has our full support, and we feel he’s done an exceptional job to this point. If you look at the play of guys like: Michael, Kendall, and Markieff lately I’m sure you’d agree with that assessment. We feel very strongly in our ability to utilize our draft choices, and add to what we feel is a young developing core. So, I ask you to be patient with us as we complete the process and judge us after a reasonable amount of time has passed. As Lance likes to say, we are cultivating the soil.

  • hawki

    Nice loss by the lakers to Miami but a horrible loss by Houston to the Kings…Rox still maintain 3 1/2 game lead over the lakers in race for ther 8th playoff spot & Suns extra Lottery pick.
    Meanwhile, if the Cavs beat Minnesota tonight, the Suns will be tied for the 4th spot in the Lottery Lotto.
    A top 4 spot guarantees the Suns Noel (Kentucky), Muhammad (ucla), Mclemore (Kansas) or Bennett (UNLV).

  • bkkkkkkkk

    The real season low worst performance should be a loss by about 10 point against Hornets few days ago. The team was shooting 1-15 in the 3 pointers against a bad team. It is very hard to beat that. The next game against Lakers is big. Lakers may hit their panic button for some insane trades if they lose to Suns.

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  • DBreezy

    As the headline says a low of lows.  I would say this was worse than the Detroit loss, not just because of the near franchise record futility numbers but because of the context.  I didn’t expect them to beat the Thunder in either game, but as Duds said after the stinker the other day you would expect them to come out with more fight than they did.  They did that after the Detroit loss, not so much last night. 
    That’s probably more of a reflection of where the season is today rather than anything difference wise between Hunter or Gentry.  Has to be somewhat troubling for Lindsey though considering his situation.  I don’t think he has to win big to keep his gig long term, but he can’t get nuked every night which is quite possible if this team stops playing with the effort they’ve shown for the majority of the season.  I found it interesting to hear the sideline commentator say that Lindsey wants to get a whole bunch of practice work in over the All-Star break, but that no one is sure where the players will be. 
    The only depressing thing at this point though was watching the Thunder’s bench players out play the combos of Suns’ starters and reserves.  More specifically, I found myself wondering if any of the Suns current youngins would have gotten on the court last night for Brooks ahead of the guys he played.  A lot of work to be done over the next few seasons.

  • john manhole

    Excellent defensive effort by the Suns to hold the mighty Thunder to just 97 points.

  • 4everis2long

    Too many more blowouts like this and Lindsey Hunter will be unemployed this summer. The Lakers will try and kill us tomorrow night. I wish this draft had a likely allstar in it but I have my doubts. I have seen holes in everyone who could possibly go 1 through 6. Anyway right now the Suns simply need a bunch of NBA caliber starting players, so the possibility we will not be getting a future allstar is still much better than what we have. With that said, i have no idea why the Suns are looking at jefferson since he will be a free agent this summer. If they want him just offer him the max in the summer without giving up a 1st.round draft pick.
    Other than maybe Dragic we do not have a sure NBA starter on the roster. I am stunned how bad Gortat looks and this is coming from a guy who screamed to the tip of my voice to trade him the last two summers. He looks lost. 
    Hawki, glad we are in the top 5 category.

  • 4everis2long

    If you guys get a chance, watch Georgetown 6’7 forward Otto Porter (probable NBA small forward) tonight. I think they play on ESPN tonight. The guy can score, shoots a good % from the field, defend and is a good passer. I am interested in what some of you think. Suns front office this is my fabricated court order compelling you to watch him subject to sanctions should you disobey.  I think he is probably projected to go around 7 or 8 but his stock could soar soon.

    • DBreezy

      @4everis2long I’ll try and watch him again, I’ve only gotten to see him once this season.  I do think his stock could soar, along with a few other players because with a lot of the guys needing work in this draft, there’s a chance that a greater number of teams simply draft on need vs potential than usual.

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