The ostensibly lousy Phoenix Suns, minus Ronnie Price and Eric Bledsoe, swamped by the Spurs last night, showed up in Oklahoma City and played way above their presumed weight: they led rather a lot, and with 3:35 left they tied it up at 100. It was more than a minute and a half later that Russell Westbrook banked in a jumper to give the Thunder the lead; Tyson Chandler missed an and-one to tie it back up; and Kevin Durant, who’d been having a crummy night up to that point, knocked down two buckets in succession to make it 106-102. Brandon Knight took a Chandler feed to bring the Suns back to within two, then fouled Russell Westbrook on the way to the rim. Westbrook, who hadn’t missed a free throw all night, didn’t miss either of these; Knight delivered another dunk, Westbrook two more free throws, and that was the end of that: 110-106.
Still, we’re talking terribly, terribly close. The Thunder shot 52.5 percent, the Suns 52.4. Rebounds were tied at 37. But the boxes look wholly different. Jeff Hornacek played only eight men, six of them finished in double figures, and the other two didn’t score at all. T. J. Warren had a career-high 29 points; P. J. Tucker added 22, and Chandler did the double-double thing, with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, the Thunder had only two players in double figures — yeah, those two, with Westbrook bagging 36 points and 12 assists while gathering only a single rebound. (Durant had 23, though he took 21 shots.) But the bench guys kept busy, especially Kyle Singler in that scary fourth quarter, with a 7-4-2 line. For Singler, who’d had about nine DNP-CDs in a row, this must be vindication of a sort.
Saturday night, it’s a trip to Charlotte, where the Hornets are smack-dab in the middle of that Eastern Conference logjam; then back home for the Kings and the Grizzlies, and off to the West Coast for another shot at the Lakers. Life is, um, not bad.