Suns Trail For Entire Game, Lose To Thunder 107-97

The Phoenix Suns dropped to 1-3 with their first road loss of the 2011-2012 NBA season.

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Suns Get Thunder-struck In OKC

Serge Ibaka (nickname: "Air Congo") dunked 10 seconds into the game, and the Oklahoma City Thunder were off and running in Saturday's New Year's Eve NBA game between the Thunder and Phoenix Suns.

Yup, the Thunder took over early, as all five starters had scored before the first quarter reached its midpoint, and that was a sign of bad things to come for the visiting Suns. OKC (5-0) got balanced scoring including 18 points from Russell Westbrook and rang in 2012 with a 107-97 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Phoenix trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter but cut the lead to five, 21-16, on a follow dunk by Robin Lopez with 2:46 to go. The OKC lead was one point, 23-22, for about 10 seconds.

Josh Childress was first off the bench followed by Lopez and Ronnie Price for the Suns. The ninth man was Markieff Morris, who surpassed his minute of PT from the previous night in New Orleans.

The Thunder had had enough of the Suns staying close as the second quarter unfolded. A 10-2 run capped off by Daequan Cook's three with 7:47 to go gave OKC a 42-31 lead. Cook was just getting started; the guard who once dropped 27 on the Suns while with the Miami Heat sank four 3-pointers in the second quarter alone and the Thunder led by as many as 19.

The Suns cut the lead to 12 with a 9-2 run of their own, but the Thunder went in at the half with a 60-46 lead and 60 percent field goal shooting in the first half.

OKC, essentially, dominated after the first quarter. There were no little squabbles among teammates for the Thunder, as had happened in a game earlier this season. Westbrook's layup made it 82-61 with 1:37 left in the third.

The Thunder won despite an off night for star Kevin Durant, who had just 12 points and committed five turnovers. Jared Dudley led the Suns starters with 14 points but Phoenix won't win against quality Western Conference opponents on the road shooting 39.8 percent like they did Saturday.

Morris banked in a three with 5:26 to go in the game to make it 96-81, the last highlight of the night for the Suns, who fell to 1-3. Morris and Hakim Warrick had 15 points each off the bench, Morris logging 15:47 of action.

The Suns never led in the game and were outscored 54-42 in the paint and outscored on fastbreak points, 21-5.


Phoenix Suns Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: New Year's Eve Schedule, TV Info, And Starting Lineups

Back here in Phoenix, this game will thankfully tip off at 6:00 p.m. which gives fans and writers alike plenty of time to catch the the action and still head out and party for New Year's Eve. The Suns are in Oklahoma City to face the powerful 4-0 Thunder. Steve Nash and friends are coming off their first win of the season on Thursday in New Orleans.

Recent games:

The Suns scrapped hard to get the win over the Hornets. It took solid defense and hard work on the glass to overcome another poor shooting night. Phoenix managed just 42 percent shooting from the field which might be enough to beat New Orleans playing without Eric Gordon but won't get it done against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and our old friend, James Harden.

When we last saw the Thunder, Kevin Durant was hitting a buzzer-beating three to beat the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Durant is averaging over 30 points per game and seems to be well on his way towards another scoring title.

Projected lineups:

TV broadcast info:

Fox Sports Arizona will carry the game in Arizona starting at 6:00 p.m. with the pregame show starting 30 minutes prior. Arizona Sports 620 will have the radio version and Bright Side of the Sun will have a live game thread online.

Key matchups:

Last season the Thunder beat the Suns in three of four games, but Grant Hill was able to slow down Kevin Durant. It's not clear, however, if Hill has his legs under him yet in the season and playing their first back-to-back of the season won't help either.

Steve Nash is shooting just 31 percent so far to start the season. If his shot isn't falling, we could see Ronnie Price play extended minutes to help contain Russell Westbrook.

Happy New Year!

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Warrick's 18 Leads Six Suns In Double Figures, Suns Buzz Hornets

The Phoenix Suns were bound to win at some point. It happened Friday night in the Big Easy, as Phoenix benefited from the New Orleans Hornets' miserable 28.9 percent shooting in a 93-78 win for the Suns' first victory of the 2011-2012 NBA season.

Coach Alvin Gentry had said before the game that to panic was basically fruitless, and his players seem to take his words to heart. Though the Suns had to go on the road for their first win after two losses at home to open the season, they got it done with balanced scoring and good sharing of the ball, plus an up-tempo pace on offense.

The Suns starters were shooting just 31 percent as a unit after two games. Friday night was an improvement to just over 40 percent, but Hakim Warrick came off the bench for 18 points, his second straight game in double figures after not playing at all in the season opener.

It just goes to show you how up-and-down the NBA is. The Hornets (2-1) beat the Suns by one in the season opener and thumped the Boston Celtics by 19 points on Wednesday. Friday night, though, they played without guard Eric Gordon (bruised knee), and seemed out of sync, especially in the second half.

The first quarter ended in a 22-22 deadlock -- Jared Dudley scoring nine points -- but the Suns began to take control in the second quarter. A 3-pointer and dunk by Shannon Brown gave Phoenix a 29-22 lead with 10:49 left.

Brown had nine points in the quarter and the Suns held two leads of 10 points. Warrick scored all seven of the Suns' points in less than a three-minute span late in the quarter and Phoenix took a 52-45 lead to halftime. It was the Suns' first 30-point quarter of the season.

The Hornets faded in the third quarter with poor shooting and turnovers. A 10-0 run that lasted almost four minutes through the middle of the third turned a seven-point Suns lead into a 68-51 lead with 4:55 to go.

That run spelled the end for the stingless Hornets.

The Suns took their largest lead of the night on a three from Ronnie Price with 1:55 left in the third, making the score 75-57. The Hornets never went on a run of any significance.

The key for the Suns was their ability get out and run the fastbreak with consistency and effectiveness. While rookie Markieff Morris played just over a minute in total after playing more than 20 minutes in the first two games, Phoenix's bench totaled 38 points.

Marcin Gortat got most of the minutes at center and posted 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Channing Frye had 10 points and 16 rebounds, but struggled from the floor again, making 4 of 15 shots.

Frustration bubbled over for the Hornets with 8:40 to play in the game when Trevor Ariza and the Suns' Robin Lopez got into a scuffle that resulted in technical fouls for both players.

"We're there in the rotation," Gentry said in a TV postgame interview. It'll be interesting to see who gets more or fewer minutes and how they are spread around, with Gentry having made that statement.

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