The Oklahoma City Thunder (43-27) faced a mountain of a matchup on Monday after a number of players were forced to rest due to a number of injuries, and the result was a 128-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns (32-39).
The Suns came into the game as the hottest team in the bubble, and they remain the only team undefeated in their seeding play. Winners of 6 in a row, Phoenix is making a push for that play-in game for the 8th seed. Meanwhile, this loss hurts OKC, but in all reality, it won’t make much of a difference where they fall in terms of 3rd-6th in the West.
Not Enough Juice
You could say that this one was destined to be a loss from the opening tip. Yes, the Thunder got off to a solid start and built another double-digit lead, and yes, shots were falling early. However, with 5 of your top 6 scorers sitting out, the early positive outlook was nothing more than fool’s gold.
The Thunder built a 15-point lead early, and it looked like they might be able to pull off the win despite missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Nerlens Noel, and Dennis Schröder, but that was before Deandre Ayton entered the game. The starting center for the Suns missed the opening quarter after waiting for his coronavirus test to clear, but once he made his entry, the game flipped in a dramatic way.
On the bright side, this game was a good opportunity for Billy Donovan to give some other guys the chance to see what they’re made of. Darius Bazley had another solid outing, Abdel Nader had one of his better performances of late, and Mike Muscala stayed hot from downtown. Still, it’s obvious that some guys—namely Deonte Burton, Devon Hall, and Kevin Hervey—aren’t quite ready for real play time.
This loss is nothing to worry about, though. Everyone is expected to be back by the start of the playoffs at the latest, and most everyone will be back as early as Wednesday. Until then, you roll with who you’ve got, and you make the best out of a tough situation.
Thunder Player of the Game
For the second consecutive game, Darius Bazley gets the nod for Thunder Player of the Game. Bazley set a career-high in scoring with 23 points on Sunday, and he poured in 22 points on Monday on 8-of-16 (50.0%) from the floor, 2-of-4 (50.0%) from downtown, and 4-of-5 (8.0%) from the free throw line.
Bazley did a lot more than score, though. His defense was solid, especially considering he was forced to play center at times due to the absences of Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel. Bazley added 10 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a block to his stat line.
Wednesday Night Date With Miami
The Thunder now turns attention to Wednesday’s matchup against the Miami Heat (43-27), who have been without their star shooting guard Jimmy Buttler in their last 3 games, two of those resulting in losses. Whether or not Butler plays on Wednesday, Miami is a good team, and OKC needs to stay focused through this final stretch of seeding games.
Tip-off for that game is set for 7 PM CT, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.