Suns outmatched by Thunder in loss despite SGA’s absence

Mar 29, 2024, 7:45 PM

Chet Holmgren #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a shot in front of Kevin Durant #35 of th...

Chet Holmgren #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a shot in front of Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Paycom Center on March 29, 2024 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

The work the Phoenix Suns have ahead of them over the next couple of weeks was put on prominent display Friday in a 128-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Phoenix (43-31) has not been a good team this year. As in, the way it plays together and functions, not the talent on the roster. OKC (51-22), on the other hand, has been an excellent one all regular season.

The Thunder, a beast in the regular season that is fourth in offensive rating and sixth in defensive rating, were missing MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right quad contusion) for just the third game this season. This actually made the Suns a betting favorite.

But the gap between the two sides was evident. Unlike the Denver Nuggets in Wednesday’s Suns win, OKC’s activity and engagement were high. It showed what it would mean for this Suns team to face a top-three seed in the Western Conference for a playoff series, if Phoenix can even get that far. It is outmatched in several ways.

The Suns trailed by 11 at halftime despite an OK start, having chunks of good ball movement and decent defensive effort sprinkled into an overall performance lacking the air-tight execution required against high-end competition. OKC’s offense possessed flow at all times without Gilgeous-Alexander, lacking a turnover in the first quarter and constantly getting to the paint while drilling 3s (as the best shooting team in the league alongside Boston).

The game was still up for grabs but then Phoenix’s slippage really went beyond just being a step slow on a pass or defensive rotation in the third quarter. The mental disconnection we’ve seen in droves returned and OKC extended its lead to 26 with 4:05 left plus a whole other quarter.

There was no elite outing from a Suns star to keep them in this. Kevin Durant got up to 26 points and six rebounds, though it was more in the realm of some of his previous performances compared to his mega-impactful night on Wednesday. Devin Booker was held to 14 points and nine shot attempts while Bradley Beal was 6-of-13 for 15 points.

The Suns got back Jusuf Nurkic (right ankle sprain) after one game but he was not very effective, as he’s had a tough time this month in general while playing through multiple injuries.

Josh Giddey led the charge for the Thunder and commanded the offense well to the tune of 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists on 10-of-15 shooting.

OKC shot 16-of-30 (53.3%) from 3-point range.

Empire of the Suns

Bradley Beal #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates his basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the...

Kellan Olson

It’s time: Suns locate spark, Bradley Beal lifts team to playoffs vs. Timberwolves

Whether it is due to a favorable matchup, a shock to the system via Bradley Beal, or a little bit of both, the Suns found what they needed.

10 hours ago

Bradley Beal #3 of the Phoenix Suns brings the ball up court against the Charlotte Hornets during t...

Kellan Olson

Bradley Beal leads big-time Suns response in ugly win vs. Kings

For as much as the last two games looked like the Suns calling it a day on the 2023-24 season, they had at least one more fight left in them.

2 days ago

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts as he walks past Kevin Durant #35 during the first half ...

Kellan Olson

Suns show same bad vibes, do barely enough to beat depleted Clippers

The Phoenix Suns were gifted a depleted Los Angeles Clippers squad on Wednesday the night after a terrible loss to L.A.

4 days ago

Phoenix Suns guard Bradley Beal (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Kellan Olson

Suns continue to show fractures in embarrassing loss to Clippers

The Phoenix Suns continue to show on the court they are not a fully connected group and Tuesday was the latest terrible loss to reflect that.

5 days ago

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (Jeremy Schnell/...

Kellan Olson

Zion Williamson steps up to moment, Suns lose crucial game to Pelicans

In the biggest game of the regular season for both the Pelicans and Suns, it was Zion Williamson that dominated the key moments.

7 days ago

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Kellan Olson

Suns hit first, jumble up Timberwolves in 3rd straight win

The Phoenix Suns used one of their best defensive performances of the season to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves.

9 days ago

Suns outmatched by Thunder in loss despite SGA’s absence