The odds were stacked—fairly high it should be noted—against the Phoenix Suns well before tip-off.
Down four players, including their top three scorers, once again and facing the NBA’s third-best team, the Suns needed to be great, perfect perhaps.
They were not.
Far from it.
The effort though, it was there. But the talent on the Oklahoma City Thunder won out.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 61 points in the Thunder’s 122-106 victory in front of a Monday night crowd of 16,316 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Durant scored 25 of his game-high 32 points in the second half, while Westbrook dropped 17 of his 29 points in the first half.
The two All-Stars each had six points as the Thunder (39-14) closed the game on a 16-4 run to sweep the season series for the third time in the last five seasons.
Oklahoma City has won four straight in the series.
The Suns, who have now lost eight in a row and 23 of 25 overall, placed six players in double figures, including two 20-point scorers in Markieff Morris (23) and Archie Goodwin (20). Mirza Teletovic added 17, P.J. Tucker 16, Alex Len 13 and Tyson Chandler 11.
Tucker also tied his career-high with five steals, playing nearly 46 minutes before fouling out.
The Suns (14-39) scored a season-best 38 points in the second quarter and led by as many as six points, but a 15-0 Thunder run spanning the third and fourth quarters spoiled any chance at an upset. Durant, who made 11-of-21 shots, had eight points during that stretch, including a 3-pointer and three-point play.
While the Suns were a plus-eight from the foul line, they were a minus-42 from beyond the arc as the Thunder made 15-of-33 attempts and the Suns missed all but one of their 11 attempts.
Overall, the Suns shot better than the Thunder (50.7 percent vs. 49.4 percent) and lost for the first time this season when making at least half their field goals at home, 8-1.
Let the record show the Suns held a lead for the first time in two games when Chandler made a two-foot lay-up just 30 seconds into the contest. The advantage lasted 19 seconds. The Suns re-took the lead three more times for a combined 87 seconds in the first 3:55. Morris was the team’s high point man in the period with eight and two rebounds.
The Suns scored on their first 15 possessions of the second quarter, and they finished with only three empty trips shooting 71.4 percent (15-of-21) for a 38-29 advantage in the period. Teletovic had 14 points (5-5 FG, 4-4 FT), Len 10 (4-4 FG, 2-2 FT). It was the Suns’ highest scoring quarter since a 38-point fourth quarter against Golden State on Dec. 16.
At one point down 12, the Suns came all the way back to take the lead on Morris’ dunk at 10:42 of the third quarter, 61-59. They would go up by as many as six, 81-75 at 2:38, thanks to a 7-0 run punctuated by Devin Booker’s eight-foot bank shot, which snapped an 0-of-7 for the rookie. Tucker led the Suns with eight points in the period.
With an 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, the Suns pulled to within three, 99-96 at 5:44, the closest they would get in the period. Morris and Goodwin each scored three points, while Tucker added two, a four-foot hook shot for the last points of the run. Goodwin was the team’s high point man in the quarter with 10 points, going 3-of-5 from the field.
At the conclusion of the game’s first 12 minutes, the Suns had just as many field goals, five, as turnovers; and four of those turnovers belonged to Morris, who three times threw the ball away. He also was whistled for traveling. Tucker was guilty of the other turnover, committing an offensive foul. The Thunder converted said turnovers into eight points.
With the game tied at 10, the Thunder went on a 14-2 run to take their largest lead of the half, 24-12, at 3:38 of the quarter. Westbrook accounted for six points with two field goals and an assist during the run. He finished the quarter with nine points, while Durant added seven. During one stretch, the Suns went nearly eight minutes (7:43) between made baskets.
The Thunder closed the third quarter on a 9-0 run turning a five-point deficit into a four-point lead, 89-85, heading into the final 12 minutes. Durant scored five of his 14 points in the period over the last 1:19, including a 25-foot 3-pointer to cap a five-point possession as Dion Waiters’ and-1 free throw was missed and rebounded by Kyle Singler, who assisted Durant’s shot.
Three of Durant’s last six shot attempts, all makes by the way, were from beyond the arc with his last two good from 28- and 26-feet out. His 32-point effort extended his streak of games scoring 20 or more points to 38, which is the longest active streak in the NBA and the second-longest of his career (56). Durant also grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots.
STAT OF THE GAME
15, 1: The Thunder made 15 3s compared to the Suns’ single 3-pointer, which marked a new season-low (previously three on Jan. 17 at Minnesota) and a new season-low for a Thunder opponent (three, three times with the latest on Dec. 8); it was the least amount of 3s the Suns have made in a game since they made one at New Orleans on Feb. 6, 2013
HE SAID IT
“We’re growing, we’re getting better, we’re not discouraged, we won’t be discouraged,” said head coach Earl Watson, who suffered his worst loss at least in terms of margin of defeat since taking over the first of the month. “No matter what numbers throw out there or what happens, we understand the process and the journey. As long as we keep getting better, wins will take care of itself.”
– By the time the Thunder went to the foul line for the first time—Westbrook at 2:32 of the second quarter—the Suns had attempted 18 and made 15 free throws.
– Booker fouled out—his team-high third disqualification of the season—with 7:10 to play in the fourth quarter, finishing with six points (1-8 FG, 4-4 FT), three rebounds and four assists.
– Chandler and Dion Waiters earned double technical fouls with 6:13 to play in the third quarter; words were exchanged and teammates had to get in between the two.
– Morris and Serge Ibaka earned double technical fouls with 31.3 seconds to play in the first quarter; it was Morris’ second ‘T’ in as many games and sixth of the season.
– Brandon Knight (left adductor strain) missed his 10th straight game, Ronnie Price (toe surgery) his 17th; while Eric Bledsoe and T.J. Warren are out for the season.
– Watson faced the franchise that originally selected him with the 39th overall pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, when the Thunder were known as the Seattle Supersonics.
– With the trade deadline now 10 days away, scouts from nine different teams—Bucks, Bulls, Heat, Jazz, Nets, Pacers, Pelicans, Rockets and Warriors—were in attendance.
The fifth of five straight home games leading into the All-Star break will feature the world champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
A Warriors victory will clinch the season series, which would be only their fourth in the past 20 seasons.
Golden State has won five straight in the series, winning the final three last season and twice this season, including the most recent meeting on Dec. 16 at Oracle Arena, 128-103. Klay Thompson scored 27 third-quarter points, part of a 46-point Warriors outburst in the period, one point shy of a Suns opponent record for points in a quarter.
Thompson finished with a Suns opponent season-high 43 points, making eight 3-pointers. Stephen Curry added 25 and Draymond Green had his second triple-double in two games against the Suns this season with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals.
Overall, the Suns are just 3-7 against the Warriors since 2013-14, one of only six teams to have won at least three games against Golden State in that time.