Preview 34 of 82: Thunder @ Suns
Time: 8:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder (21-12) are on the road tonight in Phoenix, taking on Devin Booker and the Suns (9-26) at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Thunder are currently third in the Western Conference despite losing two straight — but will be without Paul George (quad) and Alex Abrines (illness) in this one. Meanwhile, the Suns are last in the West, but have won five of their last seven games behind strong play from Booker and rookie big man, Deandre Ayton.
Tip-off is at 8:00 P.M. CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 5-point road favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Paul George: Out — Quad Contusion
- Alex Abrines: Out — Illness
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Jamal Crawford: Questionable — Knee
Suns: De’Anthony Melton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, TJ Warren, Deandre Ayton
OKC leads the season series 2-0
Nov. 12: OKC 118, PHX 101 [BOX SCORE]
Nov. 17: OKC 110, PHX 100 [BOX SCORE]
What to Watch For
Can’t Call Paul. George is set to miss his first game of the 2018-19 season, sitting tonight due to a quad contusion. While his injury doesn’t appear to be anything that will cost him significant time, his absence certainly makes this matchup with the Suns more interesting. PG13 has unquestionably been the Thunder’s most reliable player this season and he’s been downright dominant in the month of December — averaging 31.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.2 steals per game in 12 games this month.
The Suns aren’t a great team but they’re playing inspired ball lately. Though the Thunder should have all they need to come away with the win, George won’t be there to bail them out should things go wrong.
Enter the Westbrook. With George unavailable for the first time this season, the stars have aligned for the full Russell Westbrook Experience tonight in the desert. His struggles thus far in the 2018-19 campaign are well-documented but the Thunder will likely need a vintage performance out of their point guard in this one. Buckle up — this will go one of two ways.
Steve & Dennis. While Westbrook will be tasked with carrying the Thunder offense in George’s absence, the Thunder will need solid production out of Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder if they want to escape Phoenix with the win. Adams has played very well against Deandre Ayton and should be in for another nice night. However, Schroder is averaging just 12.3 points on 23.1 percent shooting from long range in the Thunder’s last five games. He’ll need to improve in a bigger role tonight.
Slowing Book. Devin Booker is averaging just 17.5 PPG against the Thunder this season — a definite win for the vaunted OKC defense. However, without George around to quarterback the defensive effort, there’s an increased risk of Booker catching fire in this one. He missed six games due to injury this month but has returned to form since making his comeback — posting 30.7 points, 8 assists, and 5.3 rebounds while leading Phoenix to a 4-2 record. Not a great time to face him without PG13 on the floor. Terrance Ferguson will be a very busy guy on the defensive end tonight.
The Other Guys. TJ Warren (18.5 PPG), Ayton (16.3 PPG), and newcomer Kelly Oubre Jr. (14.8 PPG) are more players to keep an eye on. Though Ayton will have his hands full of Big Kiwi, Warren and Oubre specifically should enjoy facing a Thunder defense that is missing their centerpiece.