Suns Visit Hurting Thunder on First Road Stop
The Suns hit the road for the first time this year after going undefeated in their season-opening two-game homestand.
Their first opponent is an Oklahoma City team licking its wounds after a 100-81 loss at Minnesota.
SUNS at THUNDER
When: Sunday, 5 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
TV: Fox Sports Arizona & NBATV
Radio: Arizona Sports 620
Not much has changed since the last time these two teams met in the preseason. The Thunder are still without Russell Westbrook (knee), though he could return sooner than anticipated. Until then, OKC goes largely as Durant goes.
The superstar forward couldn’t get much going at Minnesota, hence the loss. He followed his 42-point performance in the season opener with just 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Combined with 21 turnovers, the effort wasn’t enough against the finally healthy Timberwolves.
Miles Plumlee has been a revelation through two games, amassing 31 points, 26 rebounds and six blocks in that span. More impressive has been the opposition he has overcome to get those numbers. LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter were unable to corral the second-year big man.
Plumlee doesn’t get a break in Game 3. When Phoenix hosted Oklahoma City in the preseason, he was not a starter, and consequently wasn’t forced to be matched up against Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins for very long. Now, the bulk of his minutes will be spent fighting one or both of them in the paint. Will he continue to surprise the league?
On the rare occasions Durant didn’t score last season, Westbrook picked up the slack. The running headline now is “Who’s No. 2 with Westbrook Out?”
Their previous loss suggests that question may not yet have an answer. Jeremy Lamb was the only other Thunder player to score in double figures, and Durant’s teammates actually shot worse than he did in the loss.
If Phoenix can at least limit Durant’s damage, the amount of help he gets will likely determine the outcome.
Don’t be surprised if Jeff Hornacek turns to unexpected players if he feels the game turning on him. The rookie head coach wasn’t afraid to turn to – and stick with – Dionte Christmas and Ish Smith for energy when the team severely lacked it in the third quarter.
The Thunder’s energy stems from its frontcourt. Perkins, Ibaka, Perry Jones and rookie Stephen Adams can all affect a game merely through their activity. Plumlee has provided it consistently for Phoenix, but Channing Frye, Markieff Morris and Alex Len will need to match it.