Share this story...
Latest News

Suns’ interior success good for them but a bad sign for Thunder

Phoenix Suns' Archie Goodwin tries to get off a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka (9), of the Congo, as Suns' Sonny Weems, left, P.J. Tucker, second from right, and Kyle Singler (5) all watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Phoenix. The Thunder defeated the Suns 122-106. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Kevin Durant’s Super Bowl plans were on record.

He spent Super Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., taking pictures of the Denver Broncos’ win over the Carolina Panthers and publishing those on The Players’ Tribune.

The rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Well, if we’re to take a look at the evidence presented in their 122-106 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night, it looked like they too were reeling from a long night prior. Forget the testy moments as the officials handed out two double-technicals, once to Markieff Morris and Serge Ibaka and another set to Tyson Chandler and Dion Waiters.

Analytically, the game was either an anomaly or a bad sign for Oklahoma City as the Suns scored 56 points in the paint and survived until the Thunder stretched the lead out late in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and Co. hit 15 threes and didn’t need to do much at the rim to pull out the victory.

The success scoring wasn’t surprising against Phoenix, one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

But with the Thunder two days removed from a showcase and tough loss to the near-immortal Golden State Warriors, it was concerning Billy Donovan’s team came out so flat.

Phoenix, which even in this one had a first-quarter lapse of offensive output, got half of its shot opportunities in the restricted area and hit 70 percent, a solid number considering the league average is 59 percent allowed.

Shotchart showing the difference of the Suns (left) and Thunder (right) scoring.

Shotchart showing the difference of the Suns (left) and Thunder (right) scoring.

A stretch to begin the second quarter saw the Suns score on 15 straight possessions en route to a 38-point quarter.

That the lanes were so open without the Suns having success outside and against a Thunder defense that is sixth-best in the NBA at restricted area field goal defense might concern Oklahoma City.

The result was Phoenix hitting 51 percent overall and getting to the foul line 39 times for its highest scoring game since a 111-102 win over Charlotte on Jan. 7.

Morris scored 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting while getting to the foul stripe 13 times against the defensive-minded Ibaka. Alex Len added 13 points off the bench, Mirza Teletovic found success more in the post than behind the three-point line, and Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker both scored in double-figures.

“We fought and got back in the game,” Len said. “I think we did a good job scoring, we executed our plays, we shot over 50 percent for the game so we did a really good job there, setting screens and getting open.

“We just executed our stuff.”

Just as curious were the Suns holding the Thunder to 52 percent at the rim. Just 25 percent of the Thunder attempts came in the restricted area.

Oklahoma City just wasn’t getting to the rack much.

As for the possibility of the team suffering from a hangover coming off an emotional loss (and some Super Bowl watching): Well, the Thunder did just fine shooting from outside.

Durant started 5-of-14 before hitting six of his last seven attempts. Oklahoma City shot 59 percent from mid-range (10-of-17 shooting) and 46 percent (11-of-24) on above-the-break three-pointers.

Yet, for the Thunder to step into the elite-hood of the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs?

Nights like that might be concerning.

“This is something we’re continuing to address and trying to focus on,” Donovan told the media after the game. “There’s moments we’re really good and there’s moments we’re inconsistent and we’ve got to get to a more consistant level for 48 minutes.”

Related Links