Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder (55-20) at Phoenix Suns (45-31)


Time: 6 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ/NBATV

Tickets: Suns vs. OKC Thunder tickets

Suns

Suns

Thunder

Thunder

The phrase must-win has become rather trite in professional sports because its usage is often applied regardless of the situation.

With that said, that is essentially what faces the Phoenix Suns over the remainder of their regular season. The race for the final two spots in the Western Conference has come down to three teams (Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Suns), creating a margin of error that is slim to none.

Lose a 17-point lead at home against the Los Angeles Clippers. Move on.

Overcome a double-digit deficit on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers. Move on.

The Suns’ treacherous April schedule doesn’t leave room for any rear-view window watching. Every game comes attached with one goal: Survive and advance.

Surviving against Sunday’s opponent, the Oklahoma City Thunder, won’t be a cake walk by any means.

Although the Thunder, one of the odds-on favorites to represent the West in the NBA Finals come June, are playing their third game in four nights, Scott Brooks and Co. still have their eyes set on the No. 1 seed.

A loss Sunday in Phoenix coupled with a San Antonio win would all but nix any chance for Oklahoma City to secure home-court advantage throughout the first three rounds of the postseason, so Sunday’s clash means plenty to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and friends.

Here’s a look at three questions that could go a long way in determining the outcome.

Is home really where the heart is?

The 2013-14 season has been full of unforgettable home victories for Phoenix, including its most meeting with Oklahoma City back on March 6 — one that saw the former prevail by a final of 128-122.

However on the campaign, the Suns are just 7-6 when hosting teams currently in the top eight of the Western Conference playoff race.

With only two games remaining inside US Airways Center, will Phoenix play off its home fans as it has done previously against Golden State, Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio, or will it sabotage the advantage as it did in Wednesday’s 112-108 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers?

How Green do the Suns go?

Excuse the attempt at a double entendre during the NBA’s Green Week, but in regards to Sunday’s night showdown it does fit to some extent.

Reserve swingman Gerald Green is coming off his best performance since being relegated back to the bench in mid-March, as he poured in 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting in the 109-93 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Green is also no stranger to having success against the Thunder. After all, the last time these two teams met a month ago, the six-year pro almost single-handedly spurred on the Suns’ second half rally.

Regardless of whether he was defended by Durant, Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson or Reggie Jackson, Green torched Oklahoma City to the tune of a career-high 41 points.

The offensive explosion was so memorable that it was virally reincarnated into NBA Jam form days later.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCPXgWugw94]

Is a repeat performance in store for Green?

Will the Suns allow Kevin Durant to pass Michael Jordan?

Allow might not be the operative word Sunday night, because it doesn’t seem to matter what game plans teams try to execute at the defensive end against Durant — at least not since the night of Jan. 5.

Over the last 40 games, the three-time scoring champ has registered at least 25 points in every contest, tying him for the third-longest streak in NBA history along His Airness, Michael Jordan.

To put Durant’s astounding streak in historic context, his mano-a-mano point production with the former six-time MVP comes during the offensive height of the latter’s career (37.1 points per game during the 1986-87 season).

And while 25 has become the bench mark, the Thunder forward has actually averaged close to 35.0 points per game during the streak. In fact in the last 40 games, Durant has surpassed the 30-point mark 19 times, the 40-point mark eight times and the 50-point mark twice.

Having already gone off for 33 and 34 points respectively in two prior meetings with the Suns this season, the second of which occurring within the streak back on March 6, the question remains can P.J. Tucker and Co. keep Durant from leapfrogging arguably the greatest player the game in the league’s history?

Tags: Gerald Green Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Phoenix Suns Preview

  • Andrew

    I just hope the Suns play with sense of urgency and hustle. If they do and Frye plays less then 10 mins then they have a shot at this one. BTW the Kings are up by 3 vs the Mavs at halftime, I hope they do the Suns a favor and win this one

  • EBJM

    Frye has already clanked three three-pointers! Suns have a chance if Hornacek benches him NOW!

  • EBJM

    Right on cue! Green and Markieff come in for Frye and Dragic!

  • EBJM

    Interesting, Randolph in the game with the Morri up front.

  • David

    I hate to keep beating a dead horse but Frye clearly brings nothing, and the team is obviously worse with him on the floor. Also, am I the only one who gets annoyed with how often Steve Albert keeps saying “THEIR SHOCKING UPSET” when talking about beating the thunder in Phoenix last time? It wasn’t that shocking, it was a regular season home game when the suns were playing as well as any team in the league… I don’t understand.

  • Avi

    It doesn’t matter if Frye hits shots, it only matters if they guard him like he can. Spacing is kind of a big deal.

  • EBJM

    I think with the Morri and Green and not playing Frye or Tucker much that they match up well with the Thunder.

  • EBJM

    Sorry Avi but that argument is dead when you consider the TOTALITY of what Frye doesn’t bring every night. He doesn’t defend or rebound so you could stand anybody at the three-point line and get better results. Markieff has better production in less minutes as the BACK-UP PF.

  • EBJM

    Avi Suns went small with Markieff at center and Marcus at PF and the Suns are doing better than with Frye on the floor.

  • EBJM

    Suns closing out the Thunder with the line-up I suggested weeks ago. Dragic, Bledsoe, Green, Markieff, and Tucker.

  • BCrayZ

    @Avi -
    Reading what Dave or EBJM says is a total waste of your time.

    Good Suns fans like you appreciate the players, even when they’re in a slump.

    Fact is that Gogi & Frye lead the NBA in their 1.3 points per pick ‘n roll play. Suns need that play, when they play in the half court. Most importantly, Frye leads the team in (+/-) with the highest plus. Plus (+) helps us win the games. What else helps us win is when both Eric & Gogi score more than 16 each. Just like they did in this game. Suns are perfect when that happens. They are also perfect this year, when shooting over 50% for the game. This is the 27th time out of the last 28 games (close to perfect) that the Suns have won, when scoring 110 or more.

    MUST score 110 or more. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

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  • Sunsfansince90

    Impressive win by the Suns.

    I love Bledsoe and I think we should keep him. He was in a little slump against both LA teams but then bounced back with two good performances the last two games. One thing I dislike that he needs to improve is his decision making when he draws the defense. It’s like he forgets to pass, throws up a bad shot or just turns it over. Once he cleans that up, his assists will go up and he’ll become an even deadlier player.

  • EBJM

    Avi, fact is the Suns won because Hornacek only played Frye for 18 minutes. In those 18 minutes he shot 1-5, grabbed two boards and fouled four times. Randolph who has been glued to the bench scored 2 on 50% shooting, grabbed 5 boards and didn’t foul.

    Fact is Frye was the WORST Suns player who played tonight as he often is. Fact is Frye has the WORST PER of ANY starting PF in the NBA.

    To summarize, Frye sucks.

  • johnfromtaiwan

    @BCrayZ–

    What you wrote is really beautiful and touching to me…..

    I can totally understand that we “fans” can easily get mad and then point fingers at some players for their “poor performances”, like right now I myself will blame some of the AZ Diamondbacks’ players for their 2-7 record…..haha….

    But I just feel that I CAN NOT point fingers at any Suns’ players or the Coach, even they lose a crucial game right now, because I’ve seen how they’d played hard and dispalyed their effort…..So now no matter what happened, I can only appriciate them!