Nobody said winning on the road was easy. But I don’t think anyone thought the win the Phoenix Suns pulled out against the Oklahoma City Thunder would be as hard as it was.
Out of any team in National Basketball League, the Suns probably thought the Thunder would be one where they could rest many of their starters in a blowout win. But it ended up not happening that way.
Tonight, Suns coach Terry Porter decided the Suns could afford to sit Shaquille O’Neal so he could get some rest for the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. I wrote on my Twitter account that resting Shaq was a pretty good idea considering the Oklahoma City Thunder had only won one game all season. Unfortunately, the strategy almost backfired on Phoenix.
Anyone watching the game could see what was going on: the Thunder had more energy on both ends of the court for the first 44 minutes of the game. They shot a lower percentage than the Suns did but was mostly because they kept getting offensive rebounds and missing the subsequent shots. At one point in the first half, the Thunder got 5 offensive rebounds in a row. The Suns were down by only 6 rebounds for the game but in offensive rebounds they lost the battle by nine, 15 Thunder rebounds to the Suns’ six.
Most of the Suns players looked like they were playing a little hesitant after the Thunder started pulling ahead in the second quarter. And every time Phoenix started playing more aggressively, they would get called for a foul or would throw the ball away and the Suns’ momentum would stop just seconds after it got started. At least, until the last few minutes of the game when the Thunder players tightened up as the Suns closed the gap.
Assists are usually something the Suns can depend on – especially with having Steve Nash on the court for 30 minutes a game. But the Thunder tonight won the battle of the assists, 28 to 21. If you compared the shooting percentage of the two teams (Phoenix shot 53% for the game while Oklahoma City ended with 42%), you would think the players of Planet Orange would have easily won in the assists numbers. But again, that’s where the offensive rebounds came into play.
Leandro Barbosa was back for Phoenix and it was good to see him on the court again. He has had a very hard season so far with having to travel to Brazil twice – first to attend to his ailing mother and then to attend her funeral a few weeks later. The game against the Thunder was his first game back. He’ll take a little bit of time to get back into the flow of things, I’m sure, but he played 10 minutes and his playing time will probably continue to increase throughout the next few games.
Everyone seeing this game on the schedule probably thought the Oklahoma City Thunder would be overmatched by an experienced and deep Phoenix Suns team. Unfortunately, the Suns came out flat, the Thunder came out with enough energy to power a lightning bolt (see my play on words there??) and the end result was nearly a Suns loss. Luckily, the Suns starting point guard saved the game nearly single-handedly.
Steve Nash ended the game with 42 minutes, 20 points on eight of 14 shooting, eight rebounds and 15 points. I know it’s a cliché but he put the team on his back and carried them to the win in Oklahoma City. He even somehow alluded all foul attempts from the Thunder players with nine seconds left on the clock and was able to dribble out the clock to ensure the Suns win. Overall, this was a sloppy W but at the end of the day, it was still a win. What were your thoughts on this game?