Phoenix Suns (16-12) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-28)
Monday, December 29
Oklahoma City, OK
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
View from the other side: Bright Side of the Sun (And be sure to check out the podcast at the bottom at Joe from Thunderguru talks with Phoenix Stan)
We all remember what happened the first time the two teams met. Phoenix was playing without the extremely large cactus and the Suns were flatter than a three week old Coke. That was the second game under Scott Brooks and the Thunder played with the kind of moxie and determination that was strangely missing for the first month before it. The Suns outscored the Thunder 29-17 in the final 12 and ultimately won by a digit, 99-98.
So what happened in that first meeting? How'd the Thunder take Phoenix to the brink?
- The Suns shot 53.4 percent from the field. OKC shot 41.9.
- Phoenix hit four more threes than OKC (nine to five).
Judging by those two stats, you'd think the Suns ran away with it by 12 or something. But the Thunder paid attention to detail. OKC shot 24 free throws to Phoenix's 16. And the best part? The Thunder actually hit 21 of those. OKC turned the ball over three fewer times than the Suns. OKC outrebounded Phoenix 40-34, including a whopping 15 offensive boards. The Thunder had 13 steals and outran Phoenix, scoring 17 fast break points to the Suns' 15.
But remember, that all happened without Shaq.
I think what Phoenix Stan had to say in his pregame at Bright Side is interesting: "The real reason [the Thunder] only have 3 wins is that after a horrible start under the oppressive thumb of P.J. Carlisimoso they earned themselves such a reputation that teams are now afraid to lose to them ... Imagine losing to the Thunder. Even if you are fairly crappy team yourself you might just earn a shoe thrown at your coach by a member of the local media during the post game press conference."
That's a different theory on why the team is 3-28. I think there's definitely some truth to that, but I think it's more that the team is too young, too thin and too clueless to figure out how to win.
So the Suns surely don't want to lose this one. They're still stinging from that Christmas Day loss to the hated Spurs and tonight will likely be a chance to get out some frustration. But then again, at some point OKC surely has to surprise somebody. It happens all the time, in every sport. A team that has no business winning gets it done out of nowhere. Maybe tonight. Probably not, but maybe. That's why they'll go ahead and play it and that's why we'll all be watching.