The Thunder suffered a tough 120-99 loss on the road to the Phoenix Suns tonight. The team seemed to come out a little flat and never really got going until it was far too late. There’s no telling what the reason was behind the flat start, but the Thunder seem to be struggling recently in late games. Oklahoma City struggled on the defensive side of the ball, as they gave up 95 points before the fourth quarter. It’s no doubt that the team greatly missed their defensive star Andre Roberson tonight. Roberson brings a great defensive presence, as well as an intensity that’s nearly unmatched on the floor.
The Suns held a lead for the entire game, and never really let the Thunder back into the game. At one point in the first quarter, the Suns held an 11-2 lead. They got on top of Oklahoma City early and never let up. Not only was the defense struggling tonight, but the Thunder also struggled on offense. Russell Westbrook didn’t score his first basket until there was less than a minute until halftime. Poor shot selections and having Alex Abrines out due to injury really killed the Thunder offense. Having Abrines come off the bench adds a much needed scoring threat to the teams second unit.
By the time the Thunder finally started to heat up in this game, it was far too late. At one point, the team was down by nearly 30 points. The Thunder cut the deficit to eleven, but then the young stars for the Suns got going again. Every time the Thunder had a chance to make a run, the Suns put a quick end to it. Oklahoma City did win the second half, but it was not enough to overcome the damage they allowed during the first. This team desperately needs to find a way to play a complete game as the post season is approaching.
Russ Averages Triple-Double For the Season
Russell Westbrook continued his chase to break the tie with Oscar Robertson for the single-season triple-double record, but he fell just short as he finished the game with 23 points while shooting 6/25 (24%), 12 rebounds, and 8 assists. He also had 8 turnovers, 7 which came in the first half, as the Suns did everything they could to keep him under control.
On the bright side of things, Westbrook grabbed the 6 assists necessary to give him a season-average of a triple-double, making him the only other player to do so since Oscar Robertson did it in the 1961-62 season.
While this accomplishment is incredible, especially in today’s NBA, there is no doubt that Westbrook would much rather have come away with a win this evening. After the Game, Russell went into the Suns’ practice court with Assistant Coach Maurice Cheeks where it is assumed that he was putting up shots after his second-worst shooting night of the season. One thing is for sure: Russell Westbrook will be as ready as ever to take the court on Sunday.
Dre Sits, Defense Has Fits
Andre Roberson had to take a seat tonight due to knee soreness, and Oklahoma City struggled mightily because of it. Roberson often does not the recognition that he deserves for his ability to defend at the highest of levels, so much so that he has forced his way into NBA All-Defense discussions, but tonight was about as obvious as ever as the Thunder gave up 71 points in the first half before it even remotely began to play any type of real defense.
While Roberson’s injury is not serious, and he could return as early as Sunday, there is a bigger problem at hand: the Thunder’s ability to make stops relies far too heavily on one player. Oklahoma City is not the most defensively proficient team in the NBA, but the Thunder would not have experienced nearly as much success as they have this season without their defensive capabilities. Oklahoma City has to find out a way to defend as a team and not expect so much from one player, or else it will be a quick exit from the playoffs.
The Thunder will be back in action again for “Sunset Sunday” as they take on the Nuggets in Denver. Oklahoma City currently leads the season series 2-0. However, one game did go to overtime. The Thunder should come out on top on Sunday, but it will not come easily. Denver is battling for a playoff spot and desperately needs a win. The game will start at 4:00 PM CDT and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Craig Hofeld and Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.