Phoenix Suns at Oklahoma City Thunder (-7, 212 o/u)
Coming into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-17, 8-7 home), the Phoenix Suns (18-15, 11-8 away) can’t feel good about facing Russell Westbrook and company. In their last 14 games against OKC, the Suns have only won twice.
And the Suns won’t even have the good fortune of playing the Thunder without Kevin Durant, who has missed the last six games with an ankle injury. Last year’s MVP is set to return to the lineup tonight.
Westbrook did his best to carry the load while Durant was sidelined, averaging 30.2 points. But the former Cal Golden Bear scored only 18 in the team’s loss to Dallas on Sunday.
Against Dallas, the problems for OKC really started on the defensive end. The usually stingy Thunder gave up 64 points in the first half.
“There were a few things that we wanted to focus on [in practice],” OKC head coach Scott Brooks said. “One was to establish what we need to do better throughout the game, and not just late in games. Everything we’ve talked about, those things are correctable.”
Added center Kendrick Perkins, “Most of the time it’s been our defense. We can get better on the offensive end and I feel like we will. We need to get back to our rule of trying to hold teams under 100 points. It’s doesn’t start late in the game, it starts throughout the game from the first quarter.”‘
As for the Suns, the team had its six-game win streak snapped with a 110-106 loss last night to New Orleans, which included giving up 58 points in the paint.
“You give a team a lot of confidence in their shooting when you give up easy layups,” Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “In the first half, especially in the beginning, we were terrible defensively. We got after it after that a little bit to get us back in the game and then it was a game from then on. We can’t take plays off in the beginning of the game.”
Considering OKC is 3-11-1 O/U as a home team, and that Phoenix – which relies heavily on its uptempo offense – will be tired from last night’s game, look for this game to stay under (212).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Kevin Durant) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)