On Sunday, two Western Conference teams eager to get back on track after recent setbacks will square off when the Phoenix Suns host the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
After falling to the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 122-119 on Friday in the NBA regular season, Phoenix’s record dropped to below.500 for the first time this year.
After winning on the road in Detroit on November 5 and in overtime in Chicago on Wednesday, November 7, this loss ended the Suns’ two-game winning run at home.
Phoenix has now lost four straight games without Devin Booker, and seven of their first nine this season. After hurting his toe in the season opener on October 24, the three-time All-Star and 2021-22 All-NBA pick has been out with a right calf strain for the past several weeks.
He really puts the defenses under duress. In this case, he is responsible for protecting positions 1-4. So, we miss him,” Kevin Durant said in Friday’s postgame news conference. “Can’t wait to have him back … but I know it takes time to get healthy.”
With Booker out for four games, the Suns’ offense has been boosted by Durant, who is averaging 33.8 points per game in his absence. He scored 38 points and grabbed nine boards in Friday’s defeat, while star offseason acquisition Bradley Beal contributed 24 points — 20 of which came in the first half.
Beal made his Suns debut on Wednesday, scoring 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting in a loss to the Bulls. Against the Bulls, he only played around 24 minutes, and against the Lakers, he played approximately 32.
Beal remarked in Friday’s press conference, “The rotations, still getting used to them.” “As frustrating as (being on a minutes restriction) is, I know it’s the smartest thing to do.”
On Friday, Oklahoma City’s two-game winning streak in the regular season tournament was ended, sending the Thunder entering Sunday’s game with a sense of urgency.
Despite Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 33 points, the Thunder lost 105-98 in Sacramento.
On Friday, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 or more points for the sixth time in eight games this season. On Wednesday, in a 128-120 win against Cleveland, he scored a season-high 43 points.
Despite Gilgeous-Alexander’s best efforts, Oklahoma City failed to reach 100 points for the second game this season on Friday. The Thunder’s bench scored a total of 18 points.
“When we got out in transition, our offense was free-flowing,” guard Josh Giddey remarked in a news conference after their game on Friday.
Giddey had his first game with double digit points in three for the Thunder, scoring 13.
“When we don’t get bogged down in the half-court, we’ve got guys (who) can handle, make plays in the open floor,” according to him.
Jalen Williams averages 16.4 points per game and is the Thunder’s second top scorer after Gilgeous-Alexander’s 28.8. Williams has scored in double-figures every game thus far in the campaign.
Despite their poor performance in Sacramento, Oklahoma City still has one of the highest scoring averages in the NBA with 116.4 points per game, good enough for ninth place through Friday’s games. However, the Thunder allow an average of 115.8 points per game, placing them at No. 21 in the league’s worst scoring defense.
Phoenix is 15th in the league at 113.2 ppg, but first in victories (117.5 ppg) in scoring.