Tip-Off: 9 PM CDT
Location: Talking Stick Restort Arena (Phoenix, AZ)
Television: FSOK, NBA TV
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G Devin Booker has been the difference-maker on this Phoenix Suns squad that has struggled to find wins all season long. The Suns are riding a 13-game losing streak, and during that time, Booker has played with varied success. In a loss to the Boston Celtics on March 24, Booker scored a personal career-high and an NBA season-high 70 points. While he has not experienced that type of outcome against the Thunder, he has found a way to contribute to the game in all three meetings between Oklahoma City and Phoenix so far this season. Andre Roberson has been playing some of his best defense lately, so Booker should be a fun matchup for him tonight.
Keys to the Game
- Just Win: Oklahoma City has a tendency to play down to the level of its opponent, which is exactly what they did in their matchup with the Suns in Phoenix a month ago. Since losing to Phoenix, the Suns have gone on to lose 15 of 17 games. The Thunder has not played incredibly well since that matchup, either, winning 10 of 16 games, but they have shown some glimpses of solid, team basketball. Oklahoma City needs to go into Phoenix focused, get the win, and move on to the next game.
- Own the Fast Break: Both the Thunder and the Suns are fantastic transition teams offensively: Oklahoma City is 3rd with 17.1 fast break points per game, while Phoenix is 2nd with 19.7 fast break points per game. Defensively, however, the teams are complete opposites: the Thunder is 5th allowing only 11.1 fast break points per game, while the Suns are 29th allowing 16.1 fast break points per game. In three meetings this season, Oklahoma City has dominated Phoenix in transition by an average of 23 fast break points to 10. Tonight should be no different, which will be key to fueling the Thunder offense.
- Bench Success: For the second game in a row, the Thunder bench has shown up after being near useless for several games prior. The second unit scored 65 points in a blowout against Milwaukee, and while they only had 28 points against Memphis, both Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter scored 10 each, combined for 12 rebounds, and both finish with a positive +/-, which were all necessary contributions to help Oklahoma City get a win. Phoenix is not that great of a team, but when the Thunder lost to the Suns a month ago, it was primarily because the bench was unable to sustain a first quarter double-digit lead once starters subbed out. Oklahoma City does not necessarily need the bench to build on a lead, but they do expect the second unit to maintain one, and that will imperative to getting a win tonight.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.