One night after its heartbreaking loss in Portland, the Thunder is back in action at 8 p.m. against the Suns in Phoenix.
Here’s what you need to know about the matchup:
Suns in rebuilding mode
Currently sitting with a 19-42 record, the Suns are destined for lottery this summer and the only thing currently up in the air is what draft spot they’ll land. In other words, Phoenix doesn’t have much incentive to win games down the stretch of the season and have flipped into rebuilding mode for the final quarter of the season.
With that in mind, head coach Earl Watson has benched veterans such as Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight in order to give young players such as Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, Devin Booker and Alan Williams more playing time.
Led by Eric Bledsoe at point guard, the Suns do have plenty of players who can get hot on any given night. Bledsoe leads the team at 21.2 points per game, while second-year shooting guard, Booker, averages 20.8 of his own and looks to be one of the best young talents in the league. TJ Warren has shown a lot of promise as a wing scorer when healthy, while post players such as Chriss and Williams have really come on as of late.
Last time these teams played…
Russell Westbrook notched his 13th triple-double of the season to lead the Thunder to a 114-101 win over the Suns back on Dec. 17. Westbrook was in distributor mode throughout the game as he dished out 22 assists while the Stache Bros both scored in double figures. It’s interesting to note that OKC was without Victor Oladipo in that matchup and he will also be unavailable for Friday night’s game as he recovers from back spasms.
The Suns did take the Thunder to overtime back in their first matchup in early November, but Westbrook’s 51-point triple-double was too much for the Suns to overcome as he also hit the go-ahead layup in the final seconds. Friday night will be the third of four matchups and the two teams will play again on Apr. 7.
Thunder looks to bounce back
Despite leading 101-94 with 5:21 left, the Thunder fell to the Trailblazers, 114-109 on Thursday night after Portland used a 16-0 run to take a late lead and did enough to hold on for the win. Not only was it a tough loss, but the Thunder expended a lot of energy in a game that was close throughout.
A hard-fought loss along with a midnight flight from Portland to Phoenix don’t really mix well for teams looking to bounce back, but it’s a good thing for the Thunder that the Suns also played on Thursday night and needed a huge fourth quarter to beat the Charlotte Hornets.
Both teams will likely be worn out in Friday night’s Western Conference matchup so it’ll be interesting to see which group of guys can fight through the fatigue and come out on top.