|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|December 31st, 2012|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Arizona|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), KTAR 620 AM|
|Bright Side Of The Sun, Valley of the Suns, Sun n' Gun|
|Previous Meetings: None.|
|Goran Dragic||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Shannon Brown||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Jared Dudley||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Luis Scola||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Marcin Gortat||C||Kendrick Perkins|
The Phoenix Suns are the forgotten team in the West this season. If you look at any other team, you've got a few sentences to describe them and how they're doing. But with the Suns, all you can really come up with is a big 'ol "meh". They're not atrociously bad, or, at least, they're not supposed to be. But they don't have the tools to be good, either. They're just kind of languishing post-Nash, a collection of spare parts with no star.
Certainly, if you inserted an All-Star into this lineup, this team would find a way to put it together. They've lost 7 of their 31 games by 4 points or less. By contrast, 3 of the 4 games that they've won by 4 points or less have come against Sacramento, Detroit, and New Orleans, all very young teams. The vibe I get from Bright Side of the Sun is that the team just doesn't execute down the stretch, and don't really have a player that can close games. There are certainly players who have closing experience. Luis Scola has made some massively important plays for the Argentine national team, and guys like Michael Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal have made clutch plays in the past. But none of these guys are what they used to be, and the younger guys on the team are nothing more than excellent role players.
Of course, talent isn't their only problem. They play a fast pace, take a lot of shots, and take care of the ball really well, like classical Suns teams. Sadly, paired with that is a so-so shooting percentage, and a general inability to get to the line. Moreover, they're the league's worst defensive rebounding team, so they really have to perform on offense in order to overcome their handicap.
As such, in most of their losses, they shoot a poor percentage from the floor, especially from three. Thus, the Thunder's objective tonight shouldn't be to pressure as much as it should be to force bad shots. Then again, as I discussed last night, the Thunder are an excellent transition team. And if there's any game the Thunder can win, it's one where you're running up and down the floor against a team that allows some of the best shooting percentages in the NBA. The Thunder should be able to handle this one, as long as they can take care of the ball.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Phoenix Suns 99.