By Randy Renner
One thing the Thunder can take away from their close loss to Golden State on Saturday is just that, it was a close loss.
After a generally terrible first half on defense when the Thunder gave up 73 points on 53 possessions they played much better on that end in the second half to hold Golden State under 40 percent shooting and actually fought back from 18-down to tie the game at 104 with about 3 minutes to play only to have the offense pull the disappearing act, failing to hit critical shots coming down the stretch.
But still the Thunder at least showed they can hang with the Warriors, a team that blew out the Western Conference’s second place San Antonio Spurs by 30 a few nights back. OKC is 1-0 against the Spurs. The Thunder would probably have to play both San Antonio and Golden State in consecutive series and win each if the Thunder are to make it back to the NBA Finals. A challenge Kevin Durant seemed to readily embrace after Saturday’s loss to GSW.
"Man, we're not scared of either one of these teams," Durant said. "We're going to play our game. Nobody in this locker room is scared. We have to play them. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we have to play them. We're not ducking anybody."
The Phoenix Suns probably wish they could duck the Thunder though. OKC is in the Valley of the Sun today and will take on a Suns team that appears to be in total disarray.
Old friend Earl Watson, the original Thunder starting point guard, is now the interim coach after Suns management canned Jeff Hornacek. Phoenix comes in having lost seven straight and a stunning 22 of the last 24 which also including a nine-game skid.
The Suns are 0-3 since Watson took over the team but they did rally from 23-down to get back within six points of visiting Utah Saturday night in what was ultimately a 98-89 loss.
"It just shows our fight," guard Devin Booker said. "We're not going to give up. That's been the motto of our team all year. We might lose games but we're going to lay it all out there, and that's what we've been doing."
The Suns are without injured top scorers Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. They are rebuilding around young players like the rookie Booker, averaging 20.4 points in his last five games.
The Thunder have beaten the Suns twice this season, both games in OKC. The first matchup, on November 8th, was a 124-103 Thunder blowout but on New Year’s Eve the Suns took the Thunder to the wire before losing 110-106 and giving Thunder fans a Happy New Year.
Tipoff is set for 8:10 Oklahoma time and the game can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder will be back at The Peake on Thursday night to host the New Orleans Pelicans in the last game before the All-Star Break.