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Thunder vs Suns preview: Can OKC get it right this time?

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OKC is spiraling, and at the wrong time of the season. Can they put together 48 minutes of focus?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tip-Off: 7:00 P.M. CT

Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma

Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

4) Starting 5 Match Up: Suns vs Thunder

With the Phoenix Suns being out of playoff contention, there is little reason for them to cause OKC trouble. The Suns can only rely on All-Star guard Devin Booker and TJ Warren on a consistent scoring basis. Outside of those two, the Suns are extremely thin in their starting lineup. That said, we know what happened last game.

Elfrid Payton will most likely get the nod as the starting point guard for the Suns tonight as he will attempt to contain Russell Westbrook. Payton does have long arms and a long frame for a point guard, but his slender size will make him a liability as Westrbook begins to drive to the basket with ease.

The aforementioned Devin Booker is one of the more electrifying scorers in the league. Josh Huestis has shown some signs of being a good defensive option, but Donovan is going to go with the newly arrived Corey Brewer:

Paul George will have to show up defensively as he will be on TJ Warren for a majority of tonight’s match-up. With Warren being a good perimeter defender, it will be interesting to see if George can finally get back on track from the perimeter.

The 7’1 big man from Croatia, Dragan Bender, will have to do his best to play a stretch forward position tonight as he looks to lock up Carmelo Anthony’s jump shot. As for the battle down in the paint, the veteran on this very young Suns team, Tyson Chandler, will be going against Steven Adams. Chandler and Adams both pose as two of the more intimidating figures in the league down low. The Thunder starting five should have their way tonight, let’s all just hope the bench can show up and produce when those five are off the floor.

3) Can the Thunder turn it around?

The Thunder have lost their past two games to two of the hottest teams in their conference in Portland and Houston. The defense was lethargic and it appeared the Thunder had a tough time creating long lasting momentum in either game. They play a young Suns team who are looking to play spoiler. Although OKC did it’s job last week and beat Dallas and Orlando, teams they were suppose to beat, they need to do it again tonight.

The fate of the Thunder’s season rests in their hands as they sit 7th in the Western Conference. With Denver and Utah quickly gaining on them in the standings, it’s very possible the Thunder can fall out of a playoff spot as early as next week. Coach Billy Donovan stated, “There’s things you have control over that you’ve got to do a better job of taking care of.” The theme of the Thunder’s season has been consistency. If the Thunder are unable to turn things around soon, they could be sitting at home watching the playoffs unfold instead of participating in it.

2) Every game counts

There are just 16 games remaining in the Thunder’s regular season calendar. They will have to battle San Antonio, Golden State, and Houston one more time this season. On top of that, they will also have to play against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference in Toronto and Boston. That’s the bed news.

The good news is the other 11 games they play are against teams under .500 and almost all of them are teams within their own conference. This schedule will be extremely tricky to predict as the Thunder have shown on more than one occasion that they can be beaten by anyone, and they can beat anybody this year. With two winning streaks of 6 games or more, to go along with 2 losing streaks of 4 games or more, the Thunder have been this year’s model for inconsistency.

The bench has once again been the discerning issue. The recent addition of veteran Corey Brewer will hopefully bring more offensive production from the Thunder bench. It has been made clear on more than once occasion this year that the Thunder rely on each guy to play their role on the team. If they are able to execute that formula tonight, it should create the right recipe for success heading down the stretch.

1) Thunder need to shut down Devin Booker

25.2 PPG, 44% FG, and 39% from 3, pretty elite stat line right? The season that Devin Booker is having is the only thing that is putting the Suns on the map. Surrounded by below average pieces ever since he was drafted back in 2015, Booker has had to do a lot of heavy lifting for this Phoenix Suns team. His ability to shoot from anywhere on the court is something to marvel at.

Although I projected for Josh Huestis to start and guard Booker, coach Donovan may want to put OKC’s best defender in Paul George on him instead. George’s versatility to cover almost any defensive position is very key against a guy like Booker. He has dropped 60 points twice in the past two years and is always a threat to get hot no matter how hot or cold he may be. If the Thunder can hold Booker to less than his average point total, they should have few problems securing a win tonight at home.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    Thunder
    (22 votes)
  • 8%
    Suns
    (2 votes)
24 votes total Vote Now