With or without star players, Suns face Thunder

League: NBA

Posted on: 12 Nov, 2023 at 02:37 AM

Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns welcome the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday for a matchup of Western Conference teams looking to rebound from losses.

Phoenix slipped below .500 on the young season with a 122-119 loss on Friday to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA in-season tournament.

The defeat snapped a two-game winning streak for the Suns after returning home with road victories at Detroit on Nov. 5 and in overtime Wednesday at Chicago.

The defeat to the Lakers was Phoenix's fourth straight game and seventh in the first nine this season played without Devin Booker. The three-time All-Star and 2021-22 All-NBA selection sustained a toe injury in the season opener on Oct. 24 and has been sidelined over this most recent stretch with a right calf strain.

"He puts so much pressure on the defenses. He guards 1-through-4. So, we miss him," Kevin Durant said in Friday's postgame press conference. "Can't wait to have him back ... but I know it takes time to get healthy."

Durant has buoyed the Phoenix offense during Booker's most recent, four-game absence, averaging 33.8 points a contest. He scored 38 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Friday's loss, while marquee offseason acquisition Bradley Beal added 24 points -- 20 of which came in the first half.

Beal made his regular-season debut as a Sun on Wednesday and scored 13 points on just 3-of-12 shooting vs. Chicago. He was limited to about 24 minutes against the Bulls and played about 32 vs. the Lakers.

"The rotations, still getting used to them," Beal said in Friday's postgame press conference. "As frustrating as (being on a minutes restriction) is, I know it's the smartest thing to do."

Oklahoma City comes into Sunday's matchup having had its own two-game winning streak snapped during in-season tournament play on Friday.

The Thunder dropped a 105-98 decision in Sacramento despite Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's 33 points.

Friday marked Gilgeous-Alexander's sixth 30-plus-point performance in eight appearances this season, and his third in a row. He scored a season-high 43 points on Wednesday in a 128-120 defeat of Cleveland.

Despite Gilgeous-Alexander's efforts, Friday was Oklahoma City's second time this season failing to score at least 100 points. The Thunder bench combined for just 18.

"When we got out in transition, our offense was free-flowing," guard Josh Giddey said in Friday's postgame press conference.

Giddey scored 13 points, his first double-digit-point outing in the Thunder's last three games.

"When we don't get bogged down in the half-court, we've got guys (who) can handle, make plays in the open floor," he said.

Behind Gilgeous-Alexander's team-leading 28.8 point per game, Jalen Williams is the Thunder's second-leading scorer at 16.4. Williams has scored in double-figures every game thus far in the campaign.

Oklahoma City ranks in the league's top 10 for scoring through games played Friday at No. 9 with 116.4 points per game, despite the struggles in Sacramento. The Thunder, however, rank in the bottom 10 for scoring defense at No. 21, allowing 115.8 points per game.

Phoenix is averaging 113.2 points per game, 15th overall, but 117.5 in wins.

--Field Level Media