There’s a lot to be said for not going 0-5, and Loud City was busy saying that tonight while the Thunder finally got most of its ducks in a row. They still can’t make free throws to save their lives, but at least they unlocked the field-goal achievement, and apart from a late-fourth-quarter lapse, they managed to keep the Suns at a safe distance most of the night, or at least safe enough to let Terrance Ferguson run the point for the last 60 seconds or so. Oklahoma City 117, Phoenix 110, and if there’s a hero to be called out, it’s backup center Nerlens Noel, who started in the middle after Steven Adams complained of calf stiffness; Noel came up with the team’s one double-double, 20 points and 15 rebounds, plus a block and four steals.
Given the Thunder’s scoring woes this year, it was something of a relief to see six n double figures. Both Paul George and Russell Westbrook checked in with 23, with George hoisting a third-quarter buzzer-beater from beyond mid-court. Shooting over 50 percent never hurts, and there was enough garbage time to allow Abdel Nader and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to get some actual activity. The Suns were led by two reserves, Elie Okobo and T. J. Warren, both with 18. Phoenix actually outrebounded the Thunder by a hair, 44-43, and was vastly superior at the foul line, knocking down 26 of 27; OKC made 24 out of 35, far enough below 70 percent to make even Billy Donovan take notice.
Still, it’s a win, and a badly-needed one at that. One last game on this homestand, against the Clippers, who’d already beaten OKC out West. That’s Tuesday; Thursday and Friday will be spent taking the measure of two Eastern teams, the Hornets and the Wizards. Maybe something good will happen during those three games.