By Ben York, Suns.com After an incredible last-second victory over the Utah Jazz, the Suns head out on their first road trip of the season. First up is the Oklahoma City Thunder at 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 3. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Arizona and fans can listen to the radio broadcast on Arizona Sports 620. Click through to see five things Suns fans should watch for during #SunsAtThunder.
Shooting Touch After the Suns started the season with a blistering shooting touch against the Blazers, they were a little cool from outside against the Jazz shooting just 37 percent from the floor and 27 percent from beyond the arc. Heading to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder, the Suns will certainly need to be more consistent both from inside and outside the 3-point line. Look for Eric Bledsoe to continue penetrating the lane and kicking it out to an open Suns player along the perimeter. Making those open shots will be huge for Phoenix against the Thunder.
Taking Care of the Ball The Thunder force an average of 18.5 turnovers per game, good for fifth in the NBA. In order for the Suns to stay competitive against Oklahoma City, taking care of the ball is mandatory. It not only prevents the Thunder from having more possessions on the offensive end along with opportunities to get out in transition (one of their specialties), but also allows the Suns to control the pace of play (which is an emphasis for Jeff Hornacek). The Thunder are second to last in the league in field goal percentage (37.7) so it’s imperative that the Suns don’t give them easy buckets to get their rhythm going.
Containing Durant Kevin Durant is an exceptional player, so containing him is nearly impossible for any player or team in the NBA. What the Suns can do, however, is make it as difficult as possible for Durant to score. P. J. Tucker played some really good defense against the game’s elite scorers last season, and he’ll draw the tough assignment of guarding Kevin Durant at key times during the game. Durant will get his typical points but, conversely, Tucker will make him work for it.
X-Factor(s) Against the Blazers, it was the unexpected emergence of Miles Plumlee that helped propel the Suns to a win. In their game against the Jazz, it was a combination of Dionte Christmas and Ish Smith who kept the Suns within reaching distance during a crucial time in the third quarter before Eric Bledsoe took over in the fourth. The Suns will need a similar storyline if they want to come away with a win against the Thunder.
Rebounding Hornacek was happy the Suns won the game against the Jazz, but he wasn’t thrilled with their collective effort on the glass. In fact, he was surprised the Suns’ rebounding differential versus Utah was only -7. Oklahoma City is a great rebounding team, so Phoenix will need to place a heavy emphasis on attacking the boards both on defense and on offense (they gave up 22 offensive rebounds in the Utah game).