The Thunder found itself in a surprising first-half fight against a scrappy Suns squad that refused to play like a team that came in 16 games under .500. Oklahoma City built a 10-point lead with 3:28 remaining in the opening quarter, but the Thunder’s second unit was no match for Phoenix’s reserves.
Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley combined to score 16 of their 19 first-half points in the second quarter to help the Suns tie the score at 35-all. Phoenix went on to lead by two, its largest lead of the night, on two occasions in the final three minutes of the second quarter. The Thunder then ended the half on a 9-2 run to take a 55-50 lead into halftime.
The third-quarter onslaught then happened immediately.
Phoenix was stuck on five points for the first 8 1/2 minutes of the third quarter. The Thunder’s lead grew to as many as 26 during that run. It was a stark difference from a first half in which the Thunder allowed the Suns to shoot 53.5 percent.
“They came out and made shots in the first quarter and in the first half,” Brooks said of the Suns. “Defensively, we played much better in that third quarter … We got more hands on the basketball. We were much more aggressive in our pick-and-roll coverage and we did a good job of rebounding.”
Durant, always the perfectionists, claimed the Thunder can be even better.
“We can be a lot better,” he said. “We can’t be too happy about this. We just got to keep moving on. We play these guys in 48 hours, so we got to be better.”