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Thunder-Suns preview and gamethread: 3 Things to watch in Phoenix; Update — no Paul George, Alex Abrines

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OKC is on a two-game skid, but can they turn it around against the suddenly frisky Suns?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Oklahoma City Thunder Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Phoenix Suns

Time: 8PM CST

Location: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix

Broadcast: FSOK



Paul George and Alex Abrines will not be playing tonight:

Oklahoma City travels to Phoenix tonight the face the recently hot Suns. Here are three things to watch as the Thunder try to grab a win against the worst team in the Western Conference:

1. Steven Adams’ Scoring

It’s been a career year for Steven Adams across the board. He’s getting deserved all-star consideration, he’s anchoring the best defense in the league, and he’s scoring more than he ever has. He’s averaging 16 points a game, and that’s jumped to nearly 19 over the last 10 games. Adams has been the team’s second best scorer over the last 10 games, which says as much about the struggles of Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder as it does about him. Still, the Big Kiwi’s increased offensive prowess are something to celebrate.

No matchup should have Adams licking his chops more than vs the Suns. He’s been excellent in the Thunder’s last two games against Phoenix — 18 points in the first, and a season high 26 in the second. He also missed the very first meeting of the season with the Suns, and Nerlens Noel took advantage of the chance to start by putting up 20 points and 15 rebounds. DeAndre Ayton has shown some improvement defensively over the last month, but the Thunder should continue to excel in the pick and roll against Phoenix, and Adams should be a big part of the game plan on offense again. Adams was also very effective on post-ups against Ayton last time out- we’ll see if the Thunder look to get him going from down low again.

2. The Surging Suns

OKC is coming in off 2 straight close losses to the Timberwolves and Rockets. In theory, a matchup against the last place Suns should be just what OKC needs to right the ship. But the Suns have been playing relatively well lately; they are 5-5 over their last 10 games, meaning more than half of their wins this season have come over that stretch.

They look like a team reborn after shipping Trevor Ariza out of town. Devin Booker is putting up 30 points a game since Ariza’s Depature, and T.J. Warren and Ayton have both looked better. The Suns are the only team in the Western Conference that are clearly already out of the playoff, but the Thunder have caught them at a relative high point in their season.

3. Can Russ hit a shot?

I’ll keep this brief since it keeps coming up in these previews: Russell Westbrook has been awful shooting the ball this year, and particularly in the last month. Which is a damn shame, because he’s been better than ever this season in a lot of other aspects — more engaged defensively, sharing the ball, and he has actually shot better than his career average when he gets to the rim. But his putrid shooting from everywhere else is dragging his overall percentages down. He’s been particularly from 3 point land where’s he’s shot just 24% while continuing to jack nearly five 3’s per game.

Is tonight the night Russ breaks out of this slump? Who knows. But until he starts shooting better, this story line continues.


Who do you think will win tonight?

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