Well that wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
On a night that seemed perfect for some history/a win, the Thunder strolled into Phoenix and got absolutely stomped in the desert. Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 28, and while there were a few stretches where it felt like Russ & Co. were capable of a comeback, Devin Booker and the Suns led wire-to-wire without much of a challenge.
Phoenix entered on a 13-game losing streak, and rolling with a youth-heavy rotation as Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight have already been shut down for the season. This proved to be a non-issue, with the Suns building a 14-2 lead in the first 5 minutes of the game. The absence of Andre Roberson (knee soreness) paved the way for a blistering Suns attack, and the Thunder’s early defensive issues were never remotely close to rectified. Phoenix went on to shoot 52% from the field and 44% from distance in a complete dismantling of a team that has little time to prepare for the upcoming playoffs.
When looking for a direction to point fingers, it’s hard to decide if this was about defense, poor shooting, effort or a mixture of all three. While Roberson’s absence was key (TJ Warren cooked Doug McDermott from the jump), there is simply no excuse for an outcome like this at this point in the season. The Thunder often looked lost, and lacked the sort of aggression required to beat even the worst NBA teams. In a make or miss league, perhaps it comes down to Westbrook going 6/25, but he can’t shoot 14/25 like Wednesday in Memphis every time out. The team didn’t look prepared for the Suns — possibly distracted by all this #hist0ry — but it boils down to being better. Deep analysis, I know, but it was just poor, unfocused basketball more than any one thing.
In any case, the Thunder will be back in action on Sunday afternoon in Denver. Tip-off versus the Nuggets will be at 4PM CT and televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.Notes/Thoughts
- Russell Westbrook fell two assists shy of his 42nd triple-double, finishing with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. He also turned the ball over 8 times, shot 6/25 from the field and went a miserable 2/12 from downtown.
- History was made with 10:36 remaining in the third quarter, with Westbrook picking up his sixth assist — locking in his triple-double average for the season. He becomes the second player in NBA history to achieve such a feat, and the first since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. There was part of me that wanted to just stop at 5 assists and resume business on Sunday, but that’s how it goes.
- With the good comes more bad: Westbrook started the game 0/11 and had 5 turnovers before ever getting a field goal to drop. After the game, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported Russ had entered the Suns’ practice facility and immediately began getting shots up.
- The Thunder shot 7/31 from deep — a pleasant 22.6%. With Alex Abrines missing his second straight game with a knee sprain, there was a serious lack of long-range weaponry on the floor for OKC.
- Devin Booker is a complete and total stud, and I don’t care what anyone says about it. He blew up the Thunder defense to the tune of 37 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. After a deep bomb in the third quarter, he yelled “This is my gym!” and at that point in time I absolutely believed him.
- Andre Roberson misses a game and all of a sudden Phoenix turns into Golden State. The Suns went for a season-high 71 points in the first half and finished with a whopping 120. That sound you hear? It’s Dre’s agent counting all that money they’re about to ask for this summer.
- I know we all love Steven Adams, but how many push-shots do we have to see before we all join hands across America? He’s too big and unbreakable for all of the weak stuff he brings when there is an avenue to get closer to the rim.
- Taj Gibson had 12 points on 6/10 shooting, but only saw 16 minutes of action. Kyle Singler saw 12 minutes, if that’s any indication of how odd that all is.
- We’ve all argued that Russ isn’t stat-padding, but tonight he was chasing that triple-double like it stole something from him. With the Thunder down 20+ late in the contest, he was still out there firing passes and giving up extremely open looks. This triple-double stuff is awesome, but to blatantly chase the numbers makes it feel hollow. I’m glad he fell short tonight and has an opportunity to pick up 42 under better circumstances.
- The crowd in Phoenix was extremely pro-Westbrook, and desperately wanted to see the 42nd triple-double. It appeared the Suns were intentionally denying history late — which Jared Dudley confirmed after the game.
- Lastly — there wasn’t much reason to smile tonight, but Josh Huestis did give us this gem of a tweet.
Unreal. Back to it on Sunday.