Suns quickly lose control against Thunder, collapse in 4th quarter

Dec 28, 2018, 10:42 PM | Updated: 10:51 pm
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)...
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — With one of the youngest rosters in the NBA and a first-year head coach, the Phoenix Suns are always learning this season.

Friday night’s lesson was how quickly they can lose a game they are in control of and the margin of error against good teams. With a three-point lead after three quarters, a 21-4 run by the Oklahoma City Thunder in less than six minutes to start the fourth quarter doomed the Suns in a 118-102 loss.

“We can be pleased [with] the three quarters that we played and how we played, how we competed but unfortunately it’s (a) 48-minute game and we didn’t have enough to win this game,” head coach Igor Kokoskov said.

During the opening 9-2 run, all three of Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and T.J. Warren were not on the floor. Warren had played the entire third quarter, Ayton was also resting for his last shift of the game and Booker had exited with a little under four minutes remaining in the third.

Booker couldn’t stop the bleeding when he checked in and when the Thunder (22-12) have a player of Russell Westbrook’s quality, that’s too much to come back from. Westbrook scored 15 of his 40 points in the fourth, sensing the opportunity to close out a big road win without the sensational Paul George.

“They had a run that we didn’t respond to,” Booker said. He was 8-of-22 from the floor with 25 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.

“Ever since [the deficit grew] we just didn’t fight. I don’t know if it was fatigue — that first game back from the road trip is always tricky.”

“Lost the discipline, lost the legs and just couldn’t contain the ball,” Kokoskov said.

On the other end of the court, Phoenix (9-27) shot 6-of-19 in the fourth and was outscored 37-18. The Thunder switched all five positions and it perplexed the Suns, as Kokoskov noted after the game.

“We couldn’t break the wall, we couldn’t get in the paint,” he said.

While Booker had 10 assists, the lack of an effective secondary ball-handler hurt the Suns as well. Rookie starting point guard De’Anthony Melton had arguably his worst game as a Sun, shooting 1-of-5 from the field with two assists, three turnovers and a team-low minus-15.

Newcomer Kelly Oubre Jr. had been providing the extra scoring punch as of late, but he had an off-night, shooting 2-of-8 and flashing some of the concerns regarding his decision-making as an attacker.

There wasn’t a big-time performance from Booker’s two partners in crime, either, to bail him out for what to his standards is a pretty below average night.

Warren scored 19 points on 15 shots and for only the fourth time this season recorded three turnovers. Ayton had an outstanding first quarter of 10 points and five boards, but had six points and four rebounds in the other three quarters.

In a stat Kokoskov often highlights when things go wrong, the Suns gave up 24 points off turnovers.

To take it back to the Suns’ age, they are due to run into nights like this because of that and how new they are as a group. Richaun Holmes and Warren are two of the team’s three oldest players in the rotation and both are only 25 years old.

As Booker said, the beauty of the NBA is the Suns get to try it again the next night against another good team in the Denver Nuggets.

“Kelly’s new to the team, he’s still learning the plays and positions. There’s a lot that we still need to work on. Me and Deandre — first year playing together,” Booker said.

“The NBA — it’s a marathon. You’ve got teams that have been together 5-10 years that know each other like the back of their hand so we’re still learning. Still learning, still building.”

Penguin Air

Phoenix Suns

Ish Wainright #12 and Frank Kaminsky #8 of the Phoenix Suns react during the second half of the NBA...
Arizona Sports

Suns announce Summer League roster headlined by Ish Wainright

The Phoenix Suns released their 18-man Summer League 2022 minicamp roster Sunday evening which includes wing Ish Wainright.
2 days ago
Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns cheers from the bench during the second half of Game Five of ...
Haboob Blog

Suns’ Mikal Bridges shows no chill, dunks on kid at his basketball camp

No one is safe from getting dunked on by Suns forward Mikal Bridges. Even kids attending his own basketball camp.
2 days ago
Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game against the Houston Rockets at Target...
Jake Anderson

Josh Okogie agrees to 1-year deal with Phoenix Suns, per report

The Phoenix Suns have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent wing Josh Okogie, according to The Athletic‘s Shams Charania.
3 days ago
Jock Landale #34 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Willy Hernangomez #9 of the New Orleans Pe...
Jake Anderson

Report: Phoenix Suns trading for Atlanta Hawks center Jock Landale

The Phoenix Suns are trading for Atlanta Hawks center Jock Landale, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
3 days ago
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round ...
Alex Weiner

The Athletic’s Hollinger: Suns trade for Kevin Durant likely needs 3rd team

NBA analyst John Hollinger devised five Kevin Durant trades, and the Phoenix Suns option became one of the more complex.
2 days ago
Bismack Biyombo #18 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center o...
Kellan Olson

Report: Bismack Biyombo agrees to re-sign with Phoenix Suns

Unrestricted free agent Bismack Biyomba agreed to re-sign with the Phoenix Suns Saturday morning, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. 
3 days ago
Suns quickly lose control against Thunder, collapse in 4th quarter