Freeze-frame: two and a half minutes, give or take, left in the first half. It’s Thunder 52, Suns 49, and both sides are shooting about 57 percent from the floor. Difference: OKC has made eight of 14 treys, Phoenix none of five. But the Suns have 16 of 20 free throws, and the Thunder haven’t even been to the line yet.
That’s the kind of night it was. The Suns, with a new interim coach (Earl Watson) and four bodies lost to injuries, rang up 38 points in the second quarter to wipe out the nine-point deficit they faced after the first: it was 57-all at the half. Phoenix cranked it up in the third, but the Thunder settled that — temporarily — with a 15-0 run. But the Suns kept coming back, and OKC wasn’t really out of the woods until a patented Kevin Durant mug shot with 90 seconds left put the Thunder up by fourteen. 122-106 was the final, 3-0 is the season series, and 1-1 is the road trip.
The Suns may have faded at the end, but they put up a heck of a fight. P. J. Tucker logged a remarkable 45:58: he played the entire game with no rest until he fouled out with 2:02 left. Short on personnel, interim Phoenix coach Earl Watson ran through nine players, and got seven of them to score, five in double figures. The ever-feisty Markieff Morris, who always seems to come to life against OKC, knocked down a team-high 23. But only one three-point ball would fall for the Suns tonight, while the Thunder somehow dropped 15 of them, which doesn’t quite explain KD’s 32 points or Russell Westbrook’s 29. And that free-throw disparity gradually diminished: the Suns finished 31-39 from the stripe, the Thunder 23-30.
The Pelicans will be in OKC Thursday, followed by the All-Star break. Will this be the Thunder’s 40th win? Who is knowing? Not I, you may be sure.