Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: KSBI-TV, KUTP-TV My 45
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Previous Meeting(s): Dec. 23rd
Backstory: The Thunder are ahead of the Phoenix Suns in the standings.
Yes, you read that correctly. Let me reiterate: The Oklahoma City Thunder, the team with Kevin Durant, the team that plays in the Ford Center, and the team that was once coached to a 1-13 record by P.J. Carlesimo is ahead of the Phoenix Suns in the standings. The suns still have Steve Nash, and they're the 6th seed in the West. The Thunder are the 5th. Steve Nash is not playing tonight.
The above paragraph blows my mind. Personally, I live in a enclosed world, and try not to pay too much attention to the national media. I never watch SportsCenter. I never watch NBATV Gametime. I don't read CBSSportsline, ESPN.com, SI.com, or the Sporting News. Hell, I'll only stop by Yahoo! Sports once every blue moon. So when I peek my head up to actually see what's going on right now as opposed to what was going on a year ago or even a month ago is simply mind boggling.
But, enough about all that. The Phoenix Suns opted not to deal any players at the deadline. They're a team that is struggling to find direction. I mean that by saying they're good, but not great. They might be able to get to the 2nd round of the playoffs. It's a step down from what they were a couple of years ago. Still, they can't seem to decide whether they want to take the extra step and get the extra talent needed to get to the next level, or if they want to mortgage the present and start rebuilding. They didn't do either before the deadline, so guess what? They're stuck in the middle. To be honest, being a long time Warriors fan, I don't see what's so bad about being a 50 win team from year to year. But, I suppose after all of that "monotony" of losing in the playoffs, I guess you could see it as a "bad" thing. Personally, I think Suns fans are just spoiled. If your team is over .500 from year to year, treasure it....because you're just a couple bad management decisions away from getting into the playoffs only once in the next 15 years. All of my complaining aside, the Suns are still a team to be reckoned with, despite lacking direction. They've gone 3 and 1 since the All-Star break (with a loss to Dallas), and are generally out of the mid-season slump they had that brought them down in the standings.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Robin Lopez didn't play the last time we faced the Suns, so it's a bit of a mystery as to how good he'll do. Nevertheless, I'd expect him to have a pretty big game against the Thunder, because the Suns tend to feast inside on us, like many teams do. Nenad will have an average game, but I'd expect him to step it up a notch and have a bit of a scoring war with Lopez. Nevertheless, Lopez will have a better game in every category.
Jeff Green and Amare Stoudamire is the best battle of this game, and I expect it to be epic. Score after score, and lots of rebounds.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Grant Hill
Every time I see this matchup, I wish Grant Hill was younger. And I'm going to mention it every time I see this matchup, too. Still, it's a one-sided battle. Grant Hill is a nice team player and good defender, but at his age, he's no match for KD.
I'd expect that since Steve Nash is out, Jason Richardson will have an above-average game, and thrill the Ford Center with a nice dunk. Thabo will limit his efficiency, but he can't stop JRich forever.
I almost accidentally typed in Baron Davis instead of Goran Dragic. Man, do I miss the old Warriors. Still, it doesn't say a whole lot about Dragic. He's more of a scoring-oriented Shooting Guard than anything, and so is Leandro Barbosa. I wouldn't expect anything more than 15 points and a handful of assists, even in the best situations. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook stands a good chance of getting his next triple double. (Note that I said chance, not certainty, or even probability.)
Battle of the Benches:
The Suns have a star in Channing Frye, but the rest of their bench kind of sucks. Louis Amundson doesn't add much, and they're totally screwed as far as a backup guard is concerned. They literally don't have one. Looks like we're going to see a lot of Dragic madness tonight. And the Thunder Certainly have a better and deeper bench.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Thunder are on a huge 9 game winning streak and are at home. I don't see any reason for them to lose the intangibles battle. Alvin Gentry might have to play some big ball, but I'm sure he can find a way for it to work, especially with the Suns high powered offense.
The Suns are without Steve Nash, so this situation isn't looking very optimal for them. The Suns without Nash are like an Orchestra without their conductor. They can still play some music, but they're probably not ready to play in Carnegie Hall. To be honest, the only way I see the Suns winning is if Jason Richardson can find a way to be an effective scorer against Sefolosha, and if their big man duo can eliminate the scoring of Green and Krstic. Grant Hill getting 15 years young would help too, but I doubt that's going to happen. In the end though, I don't see the Suns finding a way to win this game. The key stat to remember here is that the Suns are the only team to have never lost in the Ford Center, Hornets or otherwise. It's high time we ended that streak.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 102, Phoenix 96
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!
Who's going to win tonight?
This poll is closed
The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Phoenix Suns