Suns struggle again to get up for post-clinch matchup, lose to Thunder

Apr 3, 2022, 7:15 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2022, 12:24 pm

We spent all season looking for a weakness in a Phoenix Suns team that doesn’t really have one.

It took until game No. 78 to locate it, one that won’t matter in the postseason: Playing in games both they and their opposition have nothing to play for in.

Because, in reality, all teams the Suns face do have something to play for since they are playing against the best team in the world and can always be motivated by that.

You could argue the Suns’ franchise record for wins (63) being one win away is something to play for, but come on, they’ve still got a few games left to get that. It should feel like a done deal already and a foregone conclusion, just like it does for all of us.

The tanking and now 23-55 Oklahoma City Thunder, sitting nine key players, played with energy like they always do and that was enough to give the Suns their worst loss of the season, a 117-96 defeat.

“The level of intensity and competitive edge just was not there tonight,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “And that’s never happened to us two games in a row. That’s one of the things that’s concerning for me.”

That line on the two games in a row from Williams was what he said was the only thing he told his players after the game.

In a game on Sunday the Suns (62-16) rested Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder, they played uninspired basketball on both ends of the floor.

While the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday beat Phoenix by crashing the offensive glass and forcing turnovers, the Thunder did it with hot shooting.

Oklahoma City shot 17-of-41 (41.5%) from 3-point range after entering Sunday’s action ranked dead last in 3-point percentage, 32.3%. With Phoenix at a putrid 7-for-38 (18.4%), it meant the Thunder were eventually going to pull away unless the Suns found their signature brand of intensity.

That was nowhere to be found.

“Usually, we impose our will on defense and we didn’t,” Suns guard Chris Paul said. “So you gotta give them a lot of credit. They moved the ball, shot the ball extremely well and they beat us.”

Phoenix (62-16) led for the entire first half before a 65-43 second half for the Thunder saw Oklahoma City blow the Suns out.

The Thunder had seven players score in double figures: Isaiah Roby (11 points), Aleksej Pokusevski (17), Aaron Wiggins (17), Vit Krejci (11), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (14), Lindy Waters III (10) and Olivier Sarr (24).

They were without Darius Baszley (knee), Luguentz Dort (shoulder), Derrick Favors (back), Josh Giddey (hip), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (ankle), Ty Jerome (sports hernia), Tre Mann (hamstring), Mike Muscala (ankle) and Kenrich Williams (knee).

Paul had 11 points and nine assists on 5-of-11 shooting. Mikal Bridges added 18 points while Cam Johnson had his second straight tough game since returning after a 13-game absence. Johnson was 4-of-15 from the field and 2-for-11 at 3-point range.

Should the alarm bells be ringing heading into the postseason? Of course not.

The Suns haven’t had a stretch like this all season, even the 1-3 start.

That is a reason why some will choose to feel concerned but the bottom line is that every team has at least one little funk like this.

Phoenix’s comes when it needs to figure out how to still play its way with four regular season games while clearly already getting mentally ready for a long postseason run.

The Suns’ next game on Tuesday hosting a Los Angeles Lakers team fighting for their play-in lives will serve as a good jolt.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Empire of the Suns

Frank Vogel, Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns...

Kevin Zimmerman

What does Frank Vogel’s hire tell us about how Suns build the roster?

Frank Vogel agreeing to become the Phoenix Suns' head coach gives us a North Star of sorts for how the team will begin constructing a roster.

1 day ago

Head Coach Frank Vogel of the Los Angeles Lakers coaches against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena o...

Kellan Olson

Frank Vogel sets tone for Suns’ makeover, steps toward 1st title

Hiring Frank Vogel is a solid yet fairly predictable and uninspiring direction from the Suns. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

1 day ago

General view of action between the Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky during the second half of th...

Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns, Mercury partner with city to pursue future All-Star games

The Phoenix Suns and Mercury are working directly with the city of Phoenix and other parties in a pursuit of future All-Star games.

9 days ago

Nikola Jokic, Bam Adebayo...

Kevin Zimmerman

A guide to being compelled by the likely Nuggets-Heat NBA Finals

It can be factual that the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat will not draw as many viewers as would the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

9 days ago

Chris Paul...

Kellan Olson

Suns face complex avenues for potentially moving on from Chris Paul

The Phoenix Suns know what they want to get done this offseason with what will be some type of roster makeover.

11 days ago

Tyronn Lue, Clippers...

Kevin Zimmerman

Empire of the Suns: Who we like as a new Phoenix head coach

The pros and cons of the Monty Williams hire and who would fit best around him as the next Phoenix Suns head coach.

18 days ago

Suns struggle again to get up for post-clinch matchup, lose to Thunder