Suns Fall to Durant, Thunder
By Brad G. Faye, Suns.com
Posted: March 30, 2011
Posted: March 30, 2011
When attempting to snap a three-game losing streak, facing a team in the midst of closing out its most successful month in franchise history isn’t the most ideal scenario. And while the Suns managed to hang in for most of Wednesday night’s contest against the Thunder, the team currently ranked fourth in the NBA’s Western Conference eventually managed to pull away for a 116-98 victory.
“We just can’t seem to put any offense together to start the fourth quarter,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. “That’s where most of the teams seem to be getting separation between us. We have to do a better job of guarding and then we have to find a way to generate some offense.”
The win for the Thunder gave them a 3-1 edge in the season series against the Suns, a series which has seen two constants from opposing All-Stars.
For the Suns, Carter scored a game-high 28 points, finishing the season with a 30-point-per-game average against the ballclub. Three of the guard’s top five scoring performances this season have come against Oklahoma City – including a season-high 33-point performance in early February. The difference on Wednesday night, was that Carter did his damage off the bench for the Suns, contributing his first double-digit scoring effort for the team as a reserve.
“I just tried to relieve those guys and play tough for them,” Carter said of the starting unit. “They played a rough one last night and we pride ourselves on everyone contributing so I did just that. I was being aggressive and hit a few shots in the post and just got going and stuck with it.”
The other consistent occurrence came on behalf of Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who for the fourth time in four meetings with the Suns this season, was held below his season average. Currently averaging 27.9 points per game, Durant scored 22 points on Wednesday, dropping his 2010-11 season average against the Suns to 23.
While in the previous three contests it was forward Grant Hill who received most of the accolades for containing Durant, the assignment appeared to be more of a team effort on Wednesday night. In addition to Hill, both Jared Dudley and Josh Childress each found themselves matched up with the superstar on separate occasions.
“You need to limit his touches as much as you can, but you need to understand that he’s a good player who’s going to get his touches and going to get his shots,” Dudley said. “He’s a little like Dirk Nowitzki in the fact that you want to try and be physical, but when he gets the ball you have to make sure to give him a little bit of space. Otherwise you’ll pick up cheap fouls and put him on the free throw line.”
Childress agreed that Durant is a tough opponent, but told Suns.com that he likens him more to an NBA All-Star who doesn’t hail from Germany.
“The closest guy I can maybe think to compare him to is Tracy McGrady,” Childress said. “You have to try to make him take difficult shots, but he’s so long, so athletic and so skilled, that it’s really tough to do. It starts with trying to make his catches tough and making sure that if he’s making shots, he’s at least making them with a hand in his face.”
BROOKS ON NASH
Before Wednesday’s contest, former NBA point guard and current Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks praised the play of Suns playmaker Steve Nash. More specifically, he praised the ability of Nash to continue playing at this level at the age of 37.
“I played that position and I had nothing left after 33, but he’s still going strong at 37,” Brooks said. “It’s remarkable what he does, he’s ageless. He’s the head of the snake, and I think (the Suns) stay competitive because of his heart and desire to will that team to be in that position every night.”
Brooks played 11 seasons in the NBA, and appeared in 680 regular season games with teams including Philadelphia, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, New York, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Clippers. He was also a member of the 1994 NBA Champion Houston Rockets.
”BOUNCE WITH THE SUNS” FINALISTS RECOGNIZED
During Wednesday’s contest, finalists for the “Bounce With the Suns” competition were recognized. The event, which raised awareness for the Health and Wealth Raffle, began with 47 contestants who were attempting to win a road trip with the Suns by dribbling until they remained the last man or woman standing. Contestants were given a five minute break every two hours, and saw competitors eliminated by every scenario imaginable including dribbling off of one’s one foot, returning late from break, taking bribes in the forms of items from the Suns memorabilia closet and, of course, pure exhaustion.
The eventual winner, Nick Ketner, prevailed by dribbling for 43 hours and 47 minutes, becoming the third winner for the annual event.
“It was a great competition and I just gutted it out,” Ketner said. “I originally just came out to enjoy the competition, but never imagined that this would happen.”
According to Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, Ketner may deserve more than just a trip with his team for the effort he exhibited.
“We should be taking him to Palm Springs or Beverly Hills for dribbling for 44 hours,” Gentry told Suns.com. “It just goes to show the dedication that our fans have. I think it speaks volumes about the type of fans that we have, which proves what I already thought, that I think we have the best fans in the world.”
SUNS CELEBRATE SOCIAL NIGHT
A number of the “Bounce With the Suns” finalists even stuck around after the contest to partake in “Social Night”, an event driven by Discount Tire.
Fans who purchased tickets to the event received discounted tickets to watch the Suns and Thunder, early entry into US Airways Center to watch the two teams warm up, group sitting which allowed them to sit with their fellow socialites and a postgame Q & A with Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby.
The Suns will host Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday before heading out on the road for five-straight contests. During that stretch, the ballgame will travel to San Antonio, Chicago, Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas.