The Oklahoma City Thunder got back to their winning ways Monday night, as they cemented their third-place position in the Western Conference. The Thunder were trumped at the weekend by the ever-impressive Golden State Warriors, but made no mistake against the NBA's out-of-form side.
The Phoenix Suns have now lost eight games in a row, and nine of their last 10, and are dangerously in trouble of slipping to the bottom of the Western Conference. The Suns have won just two of their last 25 games, and boast a dire .263 win percentage.
Westbrook And Durant On Fire
Billy Donovan's side once again had partners-in-crime Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to thank for their impressive scoring haul on the night. Oklahoma City is the NBA's second best in terms of average points per game, with nearly 110. Monday night, they converted 49.4 percent of their shots attempted, as well as sinking 15 three-pointers.
Durant continued to shine in his recent purple patch, as he scored 32, with his average points per game only bettered by Stephen Curry now. Durant has scored 30 or more points in six of his last eight games, and has no less than 27 points per game in that run. In addition to 29 points, Westbrook was the game's leader in terms of assists and rebounds, grabbing eight of both.
OKC was helped on its way by 15 points from shooting guard Dion Waiters, whilst Cameron Payne and Enes Kanter both shot 11 from the bench. Reserve guard Payne boasted an impressive 75 percent three-point conversion, as his three for the night was only bettered by Durant.
Good, But Not Enough From The Suns
The Phoenix Suns surpassed their 100.5 points per game average, but their inability to convert from deep was what partly cost them on the night. The Arizona franchise converted just one of their 11 three pointers, yet still boasted 50.7 percent shot accuracy for the game.
Markieff Morris was the Suns' best scorer, as he scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds. 21 year-old Archie Goodwin followed closely, sinking 20 points whilst grabbing a team-high seven assists. Both T.J. Tucker and Olympic gold medalist Tyson Chandler were clinical on the night, scoring 16 from just 10 field goal attempted and 11 from six attempted respectively. Phoenix was also helped off the bench, as Alex Len sunk 13 points, and Mirza Teletovic converted the Suns' only three-pointer for the game on his way to 17.
Impressive Phoenix Comeback Cuts Differences At Half Time
The game started as a back-and-forth affair, with both sides exchanging points evenly over the first half of the quarter. It wasn't until a Phoenix timeout with 5:52 on the clock that the Thunder found their game. Points from Westbrook and substitute Kanter saw the Thunder extend their lead from 14-10 to 22-12 in two minutes of play, and although Markieff Morris and Alex Len converted their chances, the Suns never came closer than seven points, leaving it at 28-19.
Phoenix's interim-coach Earl Watson must've spoken some words of wisdom before the second, as the Suns rallied an immense comeback. The Thunder were still firing away, Cameron Payne sinking a quickfire assist and three-pointer combo early on. But Alex Len and fellow sub Teletovic were the catalysts to the Suns' fighting-back effort. The latter scored 14 for the quarter as the Suns slowly but surely cut the Thunder lead to nothing at the half. Durant was quiet in the second, but Westbrook scored eight.
Thunder Kick On, Eventually
It was inconsistency that cost Phoenix eventually, as they withered out in the fourth. In the third quarter, however, they had remained resilient, and even pulled away a six-point lead thanks to contributions from Teletovic, Goodwin, and Devin Booker. It took a late spell of genius from Durant to sway the game back in OKC's favor, as he scored 10 points in just over two minutes at the end of the quarter.
Despite being efficient all game, the Suns fell away in the final quarter, as the Thunder extended its lead to 11 points at the eight minute mark. Phoenix did produce one last rally, as the work of Goodwin and Morris sliced the Thunder to four, but whilst the Suns ran out of steam, the Thunder kicked on. Phoenix scored just four more points in the final four minutes, as the Thunder went on to take the game 122-106, with only Cameron Payne's late two-pointer the only shot not scored or assisted by Durant or Westbrook in the latter stages.
The Thunder remain third, the Suns 14th in the West.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Thursday vs New Orleans Pelicans.
Phoenix Suns: Wednesday vs Golden State Warriors.