Regular Season Recap: Suns vs Thunder

SUNS 97

THUNDER 107
5 Fast break points by the Suns.

6 Thunder players to reach double-digit scoring totals.

12 Thunder players to score.

14 Combined number of assists by James Harden (8) and Eric Maynor (6).

24 Thunder’s biggest lead.

25 Assists by the Thunder, a season high.

39.8 Shooting percentage by the Suns.

40.9 3-point shooting percentage by the Thunder.

54 Point in the paint for the Thunder.

The Thunder returns to action Monday night in Dallas when it plays the Mavericks. Game time is 7 p.m. and will air live from American Airlines Arena on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.  

It will be the fourth time in 16 days the Thunder and the Mavericks have played. The Thunder won both preseason games and defeated the Mavericks, 104-102, on Thursday when Kevin Durant drilled a 3-point shot at the buzzer.

"Our game (against Dallas) was an amazing game. … I expect them to play hard and play well," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "We have to go out there and compete against them. They’re the defending champs. It’s a great opportunity for us to get better."

GAME IN REVIEW

RECAP:
For the fourth time in as many attempts, the Thunder enters the new year on a winning note.

The Thunder got key contributions, particularly on the defensive end, from each of the 13 players who logged minutes to defeat the Phoenix Suns, 107-97, in a New Year’s Eve match-up played before another sold-out Chesapeake Arena crowd.

“We’re doing a good job of playing team defense. We’re all sticking to our defensive assignments and everyone is playing collectively together,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. We can’t ever be complacent. We just have to continue to get better and try to get some more wins.”

The Thunder established its defensive presence early and never let up. In fact, the Thunder never trailed in this game. The Suns shot only 39.8 percent from the field, were limited to five fast-break points and trailed by as many as 24 .

“I thought defensively we were really good to start the game,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought our ball movement was really good tonight (the Thunder had a season-high 25 assists). We turned the ball over a few too many times, but it was a good win for us.”

A well-balanced game, too. Six players reached double-digit scoring totals and 12 players scored. Eight had at least one assist, six had at least one steal and five had at least one blocked shot.

Perhaps more important, with back-to-back games looming Monday in Dallas and Tuesday against Portland in Chesapeake Arena, Brooks was able to rest his rotation players. No one played more than the 26:16 logged by Kevin Durant.

“You usually don’t blow teams out or build big leads,” Brooks said, noting the Suns played Friday night. “I thought we just played good defense, which gave us an opportunity to jump on them.”

TURNING POINT:
Early in the second quarter, with the Suns fighting to keep the game close, the Thunder bench came in and immediately changed the pace. Daequan Cook hit four 3-pointers during a span of 4:59 to highlight a 19-6 run and build the Thunder lead to 54-35.

“DC was on fire,” Brooks said, later adding: “I thought DC’s threes were a big part of the win.”

Cook left the game with what was described as “flu-like symptoms.” He finished with 12 points, shooting 4-for-5 from 3-point range and added three rebounds and a steal in 9:55 of action.

TAKES A TEAM TO BUILD A LEAD:
The Thunder led 60-46 at the half thanks to a 24-minute clinic on team basketball.

The Thunder limited the Suns to just 38.6 percent shooting and outrebounding Phoenix, 22-16. The Thunder shot 60 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from 3-point range and 87.5 from the line.

But the most telling story was the boxscore: Nine of the 10 Thunder players to log playing minutes scored, led by Cook with 12 points. The Thunder reserves – Nazr Mohammed (8), Nick Collison (7), James Harden (4), Eric Maynor and Cook – totaled 31 of the Thunder’s first-half points.

“The second unit was good,” Brooks said. “They understand each other and have great chemistry. … It was a balanced night for us. Everybody participated in the win.”

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
The box will show a steal for Russell Westbrook, but this one deserves mention. He jars the ball loose from Suns guard Steve Nash, comes up the steal and breaks away for a vicious two-hand jam to make it 17-5. … Kevin Durant, drawing two defenders to him with his dribble, finds Serge Ibaka alone on the baseline, which leads to a drive and a basket. … Nick Collison floating through the lane and dropping a jump hook, a new look in his offensive arsenal. … Nazr Mohammed with quick, two-hand underhand pass to Collison for an easy basket and three-point play. … Harden feeding Mohammed with a beautiful pass for an uncontested dunk. … Mohammed, taking a pass at the top of the key, dribbling hard to the rim for a basket while being fouled. … Eric Maynor surprising Nash with a left-handed pass to a streaking Mohammed to complete a fast break. … Harden leading a fast break and feeding a cutting Sefolosha with a no-look pass for a lay-in and 56-38 lead. … Mohammed hitting the floor to tap a loose ball to Westbrook for a dunk.. … Perkins showing his speed and hops on a two-hand dunk to complete a fast break created on the defensive end.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Westbrook and Durant making eye contact before Westbrook, with the ball at the top of the 3-point line, lofts the ball toward the rim for Durant to throw down. … Ibaka, never giving up on a Suns fast break, blocks the shot attempt of Jared Dudley. … Collison setting a screen near the top of the key for Durant, who is tripped on a drive and converts both free throws. … Collison beating Robin Lopez to the boards for a put-back basket. … Welcome to Oklahoma City! Ibaka throws a three-quarters court outlet pass to Harden, who feeds a trailing Lazar Hayward for dunk and his first two regular-season points with the Thunder. … Thunder rookie Reggie Jackson going past Robin Lopez for a baseline drive that results in his first two NBA points.