Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/8/18
The Thunder will have a golden opportunity to pick up a much-needed win when they host the remarkably awful Suns.
The Phoenix Suns (19-47) are right where they want to be: battling the Memphis Grizzlies for the worst record in the NBA. It took a lot of losing to get there. The Suns have won just once since the start of February, which came against the Grizzlies. They’re just 1-13 in their last 14 and 2-18 in their last 20 games. They’re coming off a heavy 125-103 defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, which came on the second night of a back-to-back. Devin Booker had a team-high 31 points, while TJ Warren added 19. However, hardly anyone else was able to do much offensively.
A matchup with the Suns will be exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder (37-29) need. The Thunder dropped back-to-back games, albeit against two of the hottest teams in the league in the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. Russell Westbrook had 32 points and seven assists against the Rockets, while Carmelo Anthony snapped his recent shooting slump with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting. Prior to their mini losing skid, the Thunder took down the Suns in Phoenix, 124-116.
Three keys to the game
OKC’s sense of urgency – The Thunder have not been quite right for some time now. They’ve struggled to beat the better teams on their schedule, and they’ve also been unable to convincingly beat teams who are way down in the standings. The Suns were within one possession of the Thunder with a minute to go before pulling away late. With their playoff spot nowhere near secured, the Thunder need to play with a greater sense of urgency if they want to make it to the postseason.
Home-court advantage – Luckily for the Thunder, they’ll be at home, which significantly improves their chances of victory. They haven’t necessarily been amazing on their own floor recently, but the Suns have been really bad on the road. Apart from games against the Grizzlies and Hawks, the Suns have not been too competitive on the road over their last few outings.
Suns’ young guns – Phoenix obviously aren’t stopping anyone defensively, so it’s vital for their offense to be at peak efficiency in order to stay competitive on the road. They had that sort of production against the Thunder in their most recent meeting as Booker went off for 39 points, while Elfrid Payton, TJ Warre, and Josh Jackson all added at least 18 points.
Matchup to watch
TJ Warren vs Paul George – After going on a prolonged hot streak, George hasn’t been quite as effective to start March. He’s averaging over 19 points while shooting just 41 percent from the field. However, he could find himself in a good ol’ fashioned shootout against the Suns’ Warren, who knows how to score but gives up his share of points as well.
Suns projected starting lineup
PG – Elfrid Payton | SG – Devin Booker | SF – TJ Warren | PF – Dragan Bender | C – Tyson Chandler
Thunder projected starting lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Josh Huestis | SF – Paul George | PF – Carmelo Anthony | C – Steven Adams
Booker has really enjoyed facing the Thunder this season. In two meetings, he’s averaging 32.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. He’s dropped 30 points in five of his last six games, so he should be a strong favorite to do so again. Meanwhile, Westbrook has equally enjoyed facing the Suns’ sieve of a defense. The reigning MVP has lit them up for 34.5 points, 12.0 boards, and 9.5 assists. There’s a good chance both of them come really close to matching those numbers again.
As bad as the Suns have been, the Thunder don’t inspire much confidence either. They are just 13-19 ATS at home, and are 3-7 ATS in their last ten games. The total might be the safer play as a result. The two combined for 240 points in their last meeting, so it’s a good bet they go over 228 this time around.
The Thunder pick up yet another unconvincing win as they top the Suns, 124-115.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma and Fox Sports Arizona. Tip-off is at 8:00 pm Eastern.