Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder (46-15) at Phoenix Suns (35-25)


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

Suns

Suns

Thunder

Thunder

The Phoenix Suns should be offended by tonight’s TV schedule. The TNT doubleheader starts off with a rematch of last year’s Finals between the Heat and the Spurs. That’s a game totally worthy of national TV. But that sure-to-be-intense battle is followed up with a surefire blowout between the Clippers and Lakers. Now in fairness, the Lakers and Clippers have always played good games going back to when the Clippers were still the little brother in the Staples Center and the Lakers were winning titles. But this time around, the matchup is so one-sided, I can’t imagine anything but a 20+ point win for the Clip Show. And no matter how that game goes, there’s no chance it’s more exciting than the run-and-gun Suns taking on the Western Conference leading Thunder.

Both Oklahoma and Phoenix come into this game missing players due to injury. For the Suns, Miles Plumlee is questionable with a knee strain, and Leandro Barbosa will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. The Thunder will be without big man Kendrick Perkins who is recovering from groin surgery as well as wing defensive stopper Thabo Sefalosha.

OKC is coming off a six-game home stand that happened to coincide with Russell Westbrook’s return from injury. They dropped the first three games, but have won three straight heading into tonight. The Suns will be their stiffest test since their home loss to Miami coming out of the All-Star break. Phoenix is in the middle of brutal stretch of opponents and needs to salvage at least one victory if they hope to remain in the West playoff picture over the next week.

The Suns haven’t beaten Oklahoma City since December 19th, 2010. In the intervening time, they’ve lost 11 straight time to the Thunder. But this is not the same Thunder team. James Harden is gone. Their defensive bruisers are hurt. Russell Westbrook is still getting his sea legs. This is also not the same Suns team. Phoenix is fast, tough, and not afraid of any team in the NBA. The Suns may be a long shot in this one, even on their home floor, but as last night’s Pacers-Bobcats game proves, long shots can sometimes pay off in convincing fashion. For more on this game, let’s ask three preview questions.

Which rookie center will have the better night?

This has been an interesting season for Alex Len and Steven Adams. Len, the higher draft pick, missed a bunch of time due to injury and is only recently seeing regular minutes. Adams, on the other hand, has been contributing for the Thunder from the start. Both big men are still raw and both have impressive foul rates. Adams is committing 8.5 fouls per 48 minutes. Not to be outdone, Len is committing 9.6. Both are getting a chance to start because of injuries. Their battle will be an interesting one to watch. Adams is fiery and gets under opponents’ skin. Len is more reserved, and would be wise not to get into it with Adams. The biggest contribution Len can make in this game is rebounding. If he can give the Suns 20 good minutes of rebounding on both ends of the floor, Phoenix will be in excellent position to defend their home court.

Can Goran carry the scoring load?

Dragic was bottled up a bit by the Clippers on Tuesday. After doing battle with CP3 two days ago, he faces another tough point guard in Russell Westbrook. It’s possible that Dragic won’t defend Westbrook, leaving that instead to Gerald Green. But in that case, Dragic has to find ways to score. Without Perk to slow them down, Oklahoma City will play fast and try to run up the score. The Suns won’t be able to keep pace unless Dragic has another 20+ point game. Westbrook is a tough defender, but Goran has proven himself capable of scoring at will no matter who is guarding him.

Can the Suns keep Ibaka from having a big night?

Power forwards have been lighting it up against Phoenix as of late. Kevin Love had 33 points in Phoenix. Anthony Davis had 32. Blake Griffin had 22 point in an off night, and even Atlanta’s Mike Scott dropped 20 points in a loss. Power forward is a defensive liability for Phoenix. If the Suns hope to keep pace and have a chance to win this contest, they cannot let Ibaka have a big game. The Suns can overcome 50 or 60 combined points from Westbrook and Durant, but a 20-point game from Serge might be a bridge too far.

Tags: Goran Dragic Oklahoma City Thunder Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • John

    Phoenix Suns vs. OKC

    Key matchup: PJT vs. PJ3

    Try as the Suns may, but Durantula is gonna get his in scoring.

    Westbrook is an X Factor and IBlocka is a dominant force inside that usually poses problems for inside/Frye.

    Adams and Len cancel each other out, with a slight advantage due to experience going to Steven Adams.

    If PJT can prevent PJ3 from getting out on the fast break or from scoring in the post, it may very well go the Suns way…

    The guy the Suns should fear most is that Reggie Jackson PG. Man, that kid can play! Ish Smith may have his hands full

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Plumlee is officially out according to the Arizona Republic for this game

    all i want to see in this game is Goodwin and Len playing well

    Suns are getting super lucky as of late, Memphis lost last game because basically Zach Randolph got sick

    Dallas lost

    however i think Golden State won

    this is a brutal stretch for the Suns

    let the young guys take their lumps

    just have a good game and compete thats all i want

  • Foreveris2long

    Really encouraging news about Bledsoe’s return within a week. It should be a good experience for Len and Goodwin to get quality minutes in the playoff stretch against a playoff bound team like OKC.

  • DBreezy

    Yes you could definitely see how the Suns should feel their game should be on national tv tonight instead of the Clips/Lakers as Ryan said, but that might actually make things tougher. A finals rematch is going to get those teams pumped up for sure, but in the background is the KD/Lebron MVP battle that has been getting considerable hype for the last few weeks. There’s only three games on the schedule tonight and I’m sure KD and Lebron know the spotlight will again shine on their performances. The Suns don’t need the added ‘benefit’ of KD being on TNT.

  • DBreezy

    “The Suns may be a long shot in this one, even on their home floor, but as last night’s Pacers-Bobcats game proves, long shots can sometimes pay off in convincing fashion.”

    The Bobcats got off to a great start last night and Indy didn’t which was huge. The Suns have flirted with the opposite a bit lately and this is a tough matchup for them to do that against. They’re quite comfortable playing the way the Suns like to.

  • DZ

    “You don’t know how they’ll come back,” Hornacek said. “We might bring Eric in off the bench a little bit. We hope he’s there at the end of game. If you throw him right into the starting lineup, it might screw you up for a few games.”

    “It screws up guys’ roles. Some of the other guys who had to step it up and take more shots are maybe deferring because a main guy comes back.”

    This has nothing to do with tonight’s game but I think it’s solid thinking by Hornacek on how to bring Bledsoe back into the rotation once he’s cleared to play. Keep the starting lineup as is and initially bring Bledsoe off the bench as they were using Barbosa and originally using Green before Bledsoe was injured. I think this would be the best way to go for 3-5 games and then bring Bledsoe back into the starting lineup (if he’s ready).

    As for tonight’s game, even though Adams has more NBA minutes than Len, they are still both rookies and this will be a good chance for Len to show what he might be capable of in the future.

  • TI

    Blowout loss at home? I hope not, but that is what i came up with given Bledsoe, Barbosa and Plumlee being out. They won by 7 points in the 3rd game of season but they are worlds apart heading into the postseason, with Phoenix being exposed in the middle defensively last 10 games.

  • Voqar

    I hope Plumlee isn’t out again because having Len start makes me queasy.

    Suns could’ve played better against the clips. You can’t be doing moronic stuff like travelling 5x a game, stepping out of bounds, failing to get back on defense, and generally zoning out against the good teams, all of which the Suns did on and off thru that game. Even Ish got out hustled on a rebound by CP3 who ran about 15 ft to cut him off and beat him to the ball. That don’t happen often.

    Hopefully Dragic is ok since he wasn’t much of a factor vs the Clips – that or he’s scared of CP3.

    Suns really need to play a solid game. Zero stupid giveaway turnovers, for ex. Not gonna beat Durant and OKC playing like a bunch of noobs.

  • sunsn7

    “Statement Game”

    But what will that statement be by the end of the night?

    It’s GAMETIME

  • TI

    Suns down 11 early in 2nd qtr and Durant has only hit one shot! Wth

  • Anonymous

    YESSSS! Very big game. Sore losers didn’t even want to congratulate the suns.

  • BUTLER

    About time the SUNS wiped the arrogant smirks off the superstars’ faces. Green > Durant

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