This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 8:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: United States Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, My45 KUTP
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), 620 AM KTAR
Previous Meeting(s): Dec. 19th.
The Suns can play defense?
According to the game the Suns recently won 88-71 against the Boston Celtics, they can. With their recent trade of Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu to the Orlando Magic, the Suns have become a much more tough defensive team, and also one that can punish you on the inside offensively. They can still wow you with fast play and frequent threes, but what they lack in talent they make up for in other areas.
The new-look Suns do have their share of weaknesses, though. They have 11 capable players on their roster, leaving questions as to who should be in their lineup from night to night. With the loss of Jason Richardson, the Suns don't really have a go-to scorer anymore either, leading to long offensive droughts on bad nights.
Rather, they have to rely on whomever is hot for them on a given night. In our previous matchup, that man was Grant Hill. He scored more points in a single game than he has in 5 and a half years, mainly due to matchup problems on our part. Basically, wherever the Thunder don't have a good defender in the lineup, the Suns will have a decent enough scorer in that spot and exploit you.
Below: Sefolosha's Status, What it Means, How the Game Will Go, Keys to the Game, Prediction!
Thabo Sefolosha's status is still uncertain for tonight's game, but it would be a huge boon to have him in the lineup. Daequan Cook's performance in his absence has been adequate, but the Thunder can't afford to live and die on whether he's going to be hot on any given night. In addition, James Harden has been borderline useless offensively, and while he has made a few point guardish plays and rebounded the ball well, his average defense makes him more of a liability than an asset. If Sefolosha doesn't play, Vince Carter could go off on the Thunder for an absurd amount of points.
In the end, this is going to be a tight one. Two very similar teams when it comes to philosophy, but two very different teams when it comes to personnel. Will the aged role players of Phoenix win out, or will it be the sheer talent of the Thunder? Given how the Thunder showed they could play last night, I'm leaning towards their side, especially if Sefolosha can play. Krstic will need to outscore Lopez, and Durant will need to find a way to contain or cancel out the tricks of Grant Hill. If all three of these things happen, I'm envisioning an easy Thunder win. But they wont, so it will probably be yet another close victory.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 103, Phoenix 97