The Phoenix Suns could’ve slumped.
They’ve done it four times in overtime this season; losing on buzzer-beaters, missed opportunities and more.
They could’ve lost to Oklahoma City Thursday night in a similar fashion, crumbling under a Russell-Westbrook- onslaught that fired at will and sent the game into overtime on a three-point play.
But they didn’t.
Instead, a Suns team that had all but buried themselves and their eighth-seed playoff snag under a pile of losses five games thick beat Oklahoma City in Phoenix, in overtime, 117-113.
Now, there could be a postseason chance.
Markieff Morris led the Suns with 29 points and 11 rebounds, and Bledsoe poured in 28 of his own (11 of which came in a crucial third-quarter run) and 13 rebounds to help push Phoenix past the pesky Thunder. Len added a solid 12 points and 11 rebounds alongside three blocks to the effort.
And a balanced effort it was, against Westbrook’s double-digit fourth quarter scoring onslaught.
Hyped as could be in brand-new digs, the Suns blazed out to a 25-15 start — the second-straight game they’ve led at the end of the first quarter after failing to do so in the five previous.
Oklahoma City’s Westbrook struggled to connect initially and missed his first eight shots and had just eight points at the half — a huge factor in the Suns’ 53-48 halftime lead.
But Westbrook surged in the second half on his way to his fourth triple-double of the season (39 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists). He added 31 second-half points to help the Thunder to a 10-point lead in the third quarter.
The Suns chipped right back, aided by Knight’s 15 points and P.J. Tucker’s 12.
And while the Suns stayed balanced, Westbrook quite literally did not — he stepped on Morris’ foot on his way up for the game-tying layup in overtime and missed, falling flat on the short trip back down and sealing the win for Phoenix.
What did the Suns’ victory look like, by the numbers?
The Suns Thursday secured their first overtime win in five tries this season. Back on Dec. 31, they fell to the Thunder in Oklahoma City, 137-134, but managed to overcome their late-game challenges to notch a key win.
Phoenix jumped the Pelicans in the Western Conference playoff race, pulling within a game of the Thunder, who fell to 32-26 following Thursday’s loss. The Suns are now 31-28, having won on back-to-back nights, after snapping their five-game losing streak Wednesday in Denver.
Bledsoe’s near triple-double effort also included a game-high four blocks. He did, however, commit a game-high five turnovers.
Bledsoe came one assist shy of notching his third triple-double of the season, finishing with nine to go along with 28 points and 13 rebounds. He led the Suns in boards and was second in scoring.
The Suns jumped out to a 9-0 lead and later lead 17-5 over the Thunder at US Airways Center on Thursday. They took a 25-15 lead to the second quarter and a 53-48 lead to half, but fell victim to a strong second half from the Thunder, which forced overtime.
Westbrook’s triple-double came with an asterisk. The guard attempted 38 field goals, making just 12 and hit just 1 of 10 three-point attempts. He did, however, convert 14 of 16 free-throw attempts, pairing nicely with his 14 rebounds, 11 assists and 39 total points.
Markieff’s 29 points were his fourth-most of the season, nearly doubling his 14.9 points per game average and leading all Suns in scoring. The forward attempted a season-high 26 shots on the night, also adding five attempts from the charity stripe. He finished with 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
Alex Len played a career-high 38 minutes Thursday, grabbing his sixth career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. He also added three blocks and an assist to the box score while shooting 6-for-11 and recording a game-leading +13 plus-minus mark.
The Suns played well inside Thursday, getting 54 points in the paint. The Thunder managed just 40. Phoenix also outrebounded Oklahoma City – the league’s best rebounding team – 52 to 50.
Phoenix had to overcome a tough night from the free-throw line, converting just 12-of-21 attempts – an effort which paled next to the Thunder’s 27-of-30 night from the line.
Jules Tompkins contributed to this story.