The Phoenix Suns again didn’t look like a team expected to lose in the ballpark of 60 games, though they picked up their first loss of the season Sunday in a 103-96 road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Suns led for most of the game and took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter, but Phoenix ran out of gas toward the end of their high-energy effort. Oklahoma City went on an 8-0 run to take the lead and never looked back, though the Suns had the ball with a chance to tie in the final two minutes before turning it over.
Phoenix was also tasked with the return of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who made his season debut in Oklahoma City’s home opener after tearing the meniscus in his right knee during last year’s playoffs. Westbrook scored 21 points and dished seven assists in his return.
Phoenix’s effort was outstanding, though the Suns didn’t shoot well enough for it to pay off (40 percent from the field). The Suns grabbed 12 offensive rebounds blocked three shots and came up with 11 steals, and largely limited the Thunder’s role players.
Kevin Durant and Westbrook combined for 54 points, but backup guard Reggie Jackson was the only other Oklahoma City player to score in double figures.
Oklahoma City shot just 11 percent from 3-point range, and Phoenix won the rebounding battle by two.
Phoenix again got a diverse offensive effort, with four Suns scoring in double figures. Eric Bledsoe led the team with 26 points while Gerald Green added 21 off the bench. Channing Frye scored 19 and Goran Dragic scored 10 before leaving in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
The Suns turned the ball over 23 times — five which coming when a Phoenix player just stepped out of bounds with the ball.
The Suns shot 37 3-pointers, and though they hit almost 38 percent, that number is too high for a team without a sure-thing from behind the arc.
Forward Miles Plumlee didn’t score and grabbed just five rebounds after impressing in his first two games, and rookie center Alex Len didn’t see the court. Phoenix’s frontcourt scored just 28 points while Oklahoma City’s scored 50.
Stat of the Game
Suns guard Eric Bledsoe dished out 14 assists.
Though he’s known as more of a scoring guard — he scored 26 points on 7-of-17 shooting and 2-of-8 from 3-point range — he was able to make up for an off-night shooting by getting the rest of the offense involved.
Phoenix is expected to be one of the league’s worst teams this season, and while that may end up being the case, the Suns have come out of the gates backing up their anti-tanking talk.
The Suns continue a three-game road trip at New Orleans on Tuesday with a 6 p.m. tip.