James Harden Powers OKC Thunder To Win In Phoenix, Suns Fall 109-97

Apr. 18, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden points prior to the game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The Phoenix Suns dropped one of their precious few remaining games and fell back to 9th place in the playoff race.

Before the game Alvin Gentry off-the-cuff mentioned that Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard and former ASU Sun Devil James Harden might be the third-best player at his position in the NBA behind only Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Harden made the Phoenix Suns coach look like a genius by destroying his team with a career-high 40 points in leading the Thunder to a 109-97 win.

The Suns offense was never really able to find a rhythm or take advantage of the mismatches they had on the floor, but when they were able to close gaps and make the game interesting, it was Harden who hit a big three or drove from a layup. With Grant Hill not playing, the Suns simply had no answer for The Beard.

"I just didn't think we had a presence offensively of defensively with our bigs," Gentry said. "That's finish at the basket, rebounding the basketball, defending our goal and being a basket protector. We just didn't get very much of out of that tonight."

With the loss, combined with a win by the Jazz and a loss by the Houston Rockets, the Suns fell back behind Utah and into ninth-place in the Western Conference by half a game.

Things looked good for the Suns form the start when they jumped out to a quick 15-6 lead. But after a timeout, the Thunder closed the quarter with a 23-10 run and never looked back.

The Suns were led by Jared Dudley's 21 points. Steve Nash finished with 12 points, 5 assists and 5 turnovers. Marcin Gortat had a fairly poor showing which landed him on the bench for the better part of the fourth quarter.

Phoenix won't have much time to lick their wounds as they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. Grant Hill, who missed this game due to knee soreness, is expected to play on Thursday.

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