Observations, news and notes from Saturday’s game………..
* Kevin Durant returned after a seven-game absence and looked solid. He finished with a team-high 22 points despite a slow start. I thought he moved well on his right ankle and did a pretty good job of refraining from forcing anything offensively.
* Durant scored six straight early in the fourth quarter that were big. Then the Thunder for some strange reason stopped going to him for about seven minutes. Story of the season.
* Once again, Jeff Green looked like his back wasn’t giving him any trouble. He crashed the boards hard, mixed it up in the paint, took charges and cut hard to the basket on several occasions. I counted at least six times that he did those things in the first half alone.
* Turnovers plagued the Thunder yet again. OKC finished with 20-plus yet again. Russell Westbrook had a game-high eight to go with an otherwise solid performance. He had 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
* Westbrook also shot 50 percent from the field and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line.
* Westbrook made some solid plays tonight, breaking down the defense and finding the open man or simply hitting the open cutter. But in the fourth quarter, Westbrook tried to do too much.
* Shaquille O’Neal was essentially a non-factor tonight, although it helped the Thunder when he picked up his third foul with 8:26 to play in the second quarter. Shaq couldn’t get into a rhythm after that and finished with just 12 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
* Surprising that the Suns still managed to out-rebound the Thunder, 41-38, despite Shaq’s ineffectiveness.
* Credit Jared Dudley for helping the Suns control the glass. He had nine points and nine boards, becoming the second energy player in as many games to hurt the Thunder, joining Denver’s Renaldo Balkman.
* Thunder coach Scott Brooks went with Chucky Atkins over Earl Watson tonight, marking the first game Watson has missed this season. Not sure if Watson is injured or not. But if he isn’t it’s a questionable decision on Brooks’ part considering Watson was coming off his best game of the season on Wednesday night in Denver.
* Make that 4-30 under Brooks when the opponent scores 100 points or more.
* Suns swept the season series 4-0.
* Thabo Sefolosha has a nice shooting stroke when he gets his feet set and puts arch on his shot. When he shoots it flat, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a brick. His three steals tonight, however, mark the eighth time in 11 games with the Thunder that he’s recorded two or more steals in a game.
* Heck of a halfcourt shot by Kyle Weaver at the end of the third quarter. It served as three of his six points. With the Thunder fully healthy again, you can officially forget about getting much from Weaver on the offensive end.
* Leandro Barbosa outscored the Thunder’s bench tonight, 22-13. Phoenix’s bench outscored OKC’s 44-13.
* OKC continues to excel from the free throw line, going 18-for-20 tonight.
* The good sign was the ball continued to move well despite Durant’s return. The Thunder stopped moving it as much in the second half but that seemed to be more about a young team getting away from what made it successful early when the Suns made a push rather than an inexplicable lack of execution.
* Road gets tougher from here with the Spurs coming to town Monday.