Hot-shooting Thunder, Suns look to improve playoff positioning

League: NBA

Posted on: 28 Mar, 2024 at 11:13 PM

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns have been two of the best shooting teams in the NBA this season.

They meet Friday night in Oklahoma City with the hopes of helping their playoff positions.

The Suns (43-30) enter Friday's action a half-game behind Dallas for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference.

"We know what's at stake," Phoenix coach Frank Vogel said. "We know how many games we have left. We know what the schedule looks like. ... So next game up. The competition is fierce. We're going to have to repeat this and stay at this level to continue to win games."

The Suns face a tough schedule to end their season as all nine remaining opponents are in the top eight in their respective conference standings.

Phoenix, which ranks fourth in the league shooting 49.6 percent from the floor, has won four of its past five, including a 104-97 victory at Denver on Wednesday. Kevin Durant had 30 points and 13 rebounds in the win.

Over his past three games, Durant is shooting 67.9 percent from the floor.

"We know what needs to be done," Durant said. "Conversation is cool, communication is cool, letting everybody know what we need to do out there, but you still got to put our bodies in action to do it. It's a difference between going to do something and just talking about it."

Wednesday's win was the Suns' first this season in five games without Jusuf Nurkic.

Nurkic missed the win over the Nuggets after suffering a sprained ankle in Monday's loss to San Antonio.

The Thunder (50-22), who are second in the league in field-goal percentage (49.9), might be missing one of their key players versus the Suns. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed just his second game of the season in Wednesday's overtime loss to the Rockets.

Gilgeous-Alexander (quad contusion) is listed day-to-day, Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. The Thunder are 0-2 without Gilgeous-Alexander this season.

Oklahoma City's Josh Giddey has had his two best scoring games of the season over the past two, including a career-high tying 31-point performance in Wednesday's loss.

Giddey had a rough start to the season but has surged of late.

"When you're missing shots and things aren't going well, to have great people around you is, I think, the best thing for you," Giddey said. "And it's easy to get caught up in your own head thinking about your own game, but when you zoom out, look at the bigger picture, we're a winning team, I'm in a really, really good place. I've got great people around me.

"That's just a blip on the radar. You're going to have ebbs and flows as a young player in your career and in a season. It's just how well you can manage the highs and lows."

Oklahoma City is tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for second in the West, a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets for the top spot.

Friday's game is the last of three between the teams this season and the first in Oklahoma City.

--Field Level Media