#708 Oklahoma City Thundervs.#707 Phoenix Suns
Written by Chris Kubala
NBA: Friday, October 28, 2016, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 8 pm ET
Line: Oklahoma City -9; Over/Under: 209
A Western Conference tilt comes to us from the Midwest between a 0-1 team and a 1-0 squad. The Phoenix Suns are on the road looking to break into the win column as they face the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night. Phoenix was rolled 113-94 at home by the Kings Wednesday in their home opener. Oklahoma City was on the road, picking up a hard-fought 103-97 win over the lowly 76ers Wednesday in their first game without Kevin Durant. Phoenix holds a 124-104 record in the all-time regular season series but Oklahoma City has won 17 of the last 20 meetings. That includes a three game sweep last season.
Phoenix was a train wreck last season. In the process, they shipped out most of their marketable players, fired coach Jeff Hornacek and brought Earl Watson on as coach. The team was 9-24 under Watson after he was named interim coach February 1 yet he still ended up with the head coaching gig full time. The season opener was more of the same from last year for Phoenix. They were beaten from pillar to post repeatedly in the opening half. The halftime deficit proved to be too much to overcome as the Suns pretty much went through the motions in the second half. How the team plans to find an identity with a coach that, in 13 NBA seasons, averaged double figures in points over the course of a season ONCE, is undetermined.
The Suns were down 11 after one quarter and trailed by 19 at the half. Phoenix played better in the second half, actually playing even with the Kings but it was far too late. Devin Booker led the Suns with 18 points but logged just 25 minutes due to foul trouble. Eric Bledsoe had 16 points, six rebounds plus five assists while T.J. Warren had 14 points. Dario Bender chipped in 10 off the bench while Tyson Chandler contributed eight points and 10 rebounds. Phoenix shot 46.8 percent from the floor and went 4 of 16 from three point range. The Suns also turned the ball over 18 times in the loss while committing 29 fouls. Phoenix allowed Sacramento to shoot 51.2 percent from the field in the contest. A young team can’t afford that many mistakes if they plan to have success.
Oklahoma City doesn’t have Durant in the mix any longer but with Russell Westbrook in the mix, the Thunder can’t be just lightly brushed aside. While the team had their share of struggles against a sorry Philadelphia team, they managed to come up with a road victory. The team has to hope that the supporting cast can help make Westbrook’s life a little easier going forward or they run the risk of running him into the ground. As it was, the Thunder trailed by six after three quarters before outscoring the 76ers 34-22 in the final 12 minutes to get the victory.
Westbrook led the way for the Thunder, especially in crunch time, to deliver a win in the opener. He finished just shy of a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Enes Kanter posted a double-double off the bench with 17 points and 12 boards. Steven Adams contributed 16 points while Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova each finished with 10 in the victory. Oklahoma City is going to have to shoot better than the 41.5 percent they did against the 76ers. The team finished only 6 of 22 from three point range and took a 53-43 edge on the glass. The Thunder went 19 of 27 at the line while turning the ball over 10 times.
This clearly isn’t the same Oklahoma City team as we’ve seen in previous years. One has to wonder how good the team could have been had Durant, Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka all managed to co-exist for an extended period. Now Westbrook is the lone man of the quartet left for the Thunder. At least for this contest, that should be enough. The Suns are atrocious with no real guy you can count on to put the ball in the hole when you need a clutch basket. Phoenix is rudderless and extremely young. They need to develop a leader or two before things spiral out of control. Oklahoma City wins this one easily at home.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.