For a moment there, it looked like the Thunder were going to close out the Suns in grand style: Phoenix started the fourth quarter with only six points in seven minutes. Funny thing about the Suns, though: when it’s darkest, they rise. With a minute and a half left, they’d cut the margin to a single point, and it was still a single point when the shot clock was shut off. Then with 11.6 seconds left, Russell Westbrook picked Steve Nash’s pocket, drew the foul, swished a pair of free throws; Phoenix spent less than three seconds setting up Vince Carter for a trey to tie it up, and Kevin Durant’s pullup jumper at the buzzer went awry. Five minutes of overtime followed, and the Thunder eventually won it at the charity stripe, 122-118. It didn’t hurt that Carter, missing a key trey but drawing a foul in the waning moments, bricked two of three freebies.
The Suns put up 101 shots thirty-one from beyond the arc and hit 47.5 percent of the twos and 45.2 percent of the threes. Carter finished with 29 points, with Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat racking up twenty each from the bench; Nash (11 points, 14 assists) and Channing Frye (11 points, 15 rebounds) got double-doubles. But here’s your telltale statistic: Grant Hill, usually a thorn in the Thunder’s side, had five boards and five fouls in 41 points, but no points.
Phoenix also did a decent job of confining Durant, who ended up 3-14 with 18 points. Westbrook, however, was not so easily boxed out, rolling up 32 points and serving up 11 dimes. And James Harden had a season-high 26 points. OKC outrebounded PHX, 49-45, and outrejected them as well: Serge Ibaka blocked four shots, his teammates five more, while the Suns came up with only three blocks, all from Gortat.
From this point, though, things get hairy. A two-game road trip runs through Memphis and Philadelphia, both in position to be playoff teams this season; then back home against Detroit, then on the road for three more (Cleveland, Washington, Miami). It’s showtime, guys.