|2012-2013 NBA Season
The Oklahoma City Thunder (37-12)
|February 8th, 2013
|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 SunValley of the SunsSun n' Gun
|Previous Meetings: Jan 1st, Jan 14th (Thunder Lead Season Series 2-0)
|Injury Report: Jeremy Lamb (Questionable), DeAndre Liggins (Questionable), Channing Frye (Out)
The Phoenix Suns are pretty much the definition of a bad team. They haven't really beaten a good opponent in months, though they do seem to routinely beat lower echelon teams. The thing is, the Suns don't really have a gimmick, a rising star, or anything to separate them from the crowd. When it comes down to brass tacks, this team is just a bizarre collection of role players with no one to glue them together.
The most noteworthy thing to happen to the Suns as of late was their 13 point fourth quarter comeback against the Lakers, in which Michael Beasley channeled his potential and scored what was essentially the game-tying bucket. But though Michael Beasley has a lot of talent, his actual performance is an unstable enigma. For every all-star like performance, he follows it up with 2-4 terrible performances that make Alvin Gentry consider whether to play him at all.
The rest of the team is just so-so. They've got a committee of 5 guys who can step up on any given night and shoot fairly reasonably. Despite this, the Suns have almost nobody who can shoot the three consistently (something which would have been unthinkable 5 years ago), and nobody who can get to the line. So when things dry up, they dry up quickly, and the Suns dig themselves in a bad hole.
Both of their previous matchups with the Thunder have basically followed the same pattern. The methods were admittedly different, though. The first game saw a well-rounded Thunder team band together, control the ball, and run a reliable offense while the Suns were missing open perimeter shots. The second game saw the Thunder basically give the throne to Durant and Westbrook, who carried the offense and blasted the Suns into oblivion.
Can the Suns win tonight? Signs point to no. But here's how they could.
1. Experiment with lineups. In previous games, the Suns have had lineups that worked really well against the Thunder, like a dual center lineup with Gortat and O'Neal, or a smaller lineup with Scola. If the Suns can find a formula that works and keep the Thunder guessing, things could swing in their favor.
2. Shoot Responsibly or Get to the Line. The Suns can't win on threes unless they're running with the Kings. And running with the Thunder is suicide. Find a way to keep the offense moving, and don't settle for bad or mostly inefficient shots. If all else fails, hope that Dragic can draw some fouls in the paint.
3. Look for the X-Factor. The Suns have a lot of meh players, but there's still a few who can pull things through when it counts. Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat, and even Michael Beasley are capable of taking over games when the situation is right. If you've got the hot hand, feed it. Not feeding Scola is what killed them in their first encounter with the Thunder.
Of course, accomplishing any one of the three above tasks is more difficult than it seems. By all accounts, this game should be a clean and clear Thunder win. But as always in the NBA, anything can happen.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Phoenix Suns 90.
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