Where They At: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are playing as well as they have all season, with the reserve units performing better thanks largely to less Dion Waiters/D.J. Augustin and more Enes Kanter/Cameron Payne. They look capable of blowing the doors off of any decent team, and closer to playing at a high enough level to take wins on the road against really good teams, as they did with the Los Angeles Clippers and came near to doing against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Where They At: Phoenix Suns
The Suns’ went from ahead of schedule to behind schedule in a hurry. The plucky upstarts of two seasons ago slid below .500 last year, and last night’s 33-point beatdown at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs has them down to 12-21 this season. They’ve lost six straight (including one against the Philadelphia 76ers), and Jeff Hornacek is reportedly on the hot seat—the front office has already replaced two of his top assistants. Markieff Morris’s squabbles with the organization from the offseason have continued enough to keep his trade value in the gutter.
Oh, and Eric Bledsoe is out for the season. This team is more wounded than the Chicago Bulls were on Christmas, but they’re still a real team with young talent capable of pulling the upset if the Thunder don’t take them seriously.
You can almost throw everything out the window when these two teams meet. The average result from this rivalry the last two seasons has been something along the lines of 'Thunder 117, Suns 111', with some wild overtime contests and scores soaring above 120 regularly. The Suns haven’t been the same offensive force this year (they’re below average, actually), but they still play at the league’s third fastest pace. And it’s New Year’s Eve, a date that begs for late fireworks.
The one thing I won’t throw out the window when predicting the outcome? Every time Kevin Durant has suited up against the Suns, the Thunder have won the shootout. I don’t see the Bledsoe-less Suns keeping up with the Durant-full Thunder.
Prediction: Thunder 223, Suns 213 (give or take a hundred)
|2015-16 NBA Season Game 33|
|December 31st, 2015|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City|
|7:00 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Arizona, NBA League Pass|
|Injury Report: Eric Bledsoe (Out), Ronnie Price (Doubtful)|
|This Season's Matchups: Nov. 8 (W 124-103)|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Devin Booker||SG||Andre Roberson|
|P.J. Tucker||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Jon Leuer||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Alex Len||C||Steven Adams|