Thunder vs. Suns: Pregame Primer
When you see Russell Westbrook’s stat line, you, of course, first notice the triple double stats. 31.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists. It just stands out. Double digit numbers in the rebound and assist columns are reserved for experts at those trades. You don’t average 10 assists per game in a season without being great at play-making. A player doesn’t just luck into 10 rebounds per game for a season. Maybe a game, yes. But not for an entire season. Those types of players have to have a nose for the ball, have the motivation to bang with equally sized brutes, and (usually) require the height needed to grab all those boards.
Therein lies the greatness in Westbrook’s accomplishment this season. Play-makers and rebounders are specialists in their own respect. Ricky Rubio is an okay scorer, but a great play-maker. Hassan Whiteside can put up big scoring numbers, but is generally known as a rebounding/block machine. But to combine both is astounding in its own right.
But what makes Westbrook’s triple-double stand out even more is the fact that he’s also leading the league in scoring while doing it. To put up a 30-point triple-double in a game is an amazing accomplishment. To do it over the course of 82 games is historic. Not just regular historic. But, “probably not going to be accomplished again in our lifetime” type of historic. In addition, Westbrook is just 114 points away from setting the franchise record for total points scored in a season. That’s franchise record, as in Seattle and Oklahoma City. He has to average 28.5 points per game over the next four games to achieve that goal. If Westbrook wants to get really crazy, he would need to average 36.5 points per game over the next four games to also surpass Kevin Durant as the franchise’s leader in points per game for a season.
The scoring numbers by themselves are a career-defining accomplishment. But to do that in conjunction with triple-double averages, shows you just how special this season has been. It’s a season that will reverberate for decades.
Season Series Summary
This is the fourth and final meeting of the year between the Thunder and Suns. The Thunder lead the season series 2-1, with each team winning on its home floor.
- Alex Abrines – Out (knee)
- Andre Roberson – Doubtful (knee)
Three Big Things
1. Defending the Suns’ wing scorers
With Andre Roberson possibly being out for this game with a sore knee, the Thunder will have to contend with defending Booker who is averaging 34.2 over his last 6 games, with a 70-point explosion thrown in there. Of the Suns’ players who are are still playing, TJ Warren is their second leading scorer at 14.1 points per game. In addition, Warren always seems to have good games against the Thunder. If Roberson sits out, it’ll be interesting to see who the Thunder put in the starting line-up. I would expect Jerami Grant to get the nod, as he would be a better defender against the bully-ball style of Warren. In fact, we may actually see some playing time tonight for (gulp!) Kyle Singler.
For some reason, the Thunder (well, mainly Russell Westbrook) seem to lose their composure against the Suns. This may be lessened by the fact PJ Tucker is no longer on the Suns, but that remains to be seen. In their last meeting, Derrick Jones Jr. frustrated Westbrook, causing him to get a technical, and completely taking him off his game. With 15 technicals already on his docket, one more will lead to a 1-game suspension.
3. Scoring Style
The Suns and Thunder score in very similar ways. Both are top 6 in the league in Point In The Paint, 2nd Chance Points, and Fastbreak Points per game. Phoenix likes to play a little faster in terms of pace. If the Thunder want to win this game, they are going to have to go against all their inclinations and actually slow the game down a little. Look for Steven Adams and Enes Kanter to have big impacts on this game.