Thunder-Suns Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 09, 2013
Despite their recent struggles versus Oklahoma City, the Phoenix Suns appear eager for their last chance to avoid another season-series sweep at the hands of the reigning Western Conference champions. After ending a rough trip by being blown out in Oklahoma, the Suns look to avoid a 10th consecutive defeat to the surging Thunder on Sunday night. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carried a relatively light load in Oklahoma City's 127-96 win over Phoenix (17-34) on Friday. Since losing four of seven, the Thunder (38-12) have shot 51.7 percent and averaged 119.3 points while beating Dallas, Golden State and the Suns by a combined 73 during a three-game homestand. Durant and Westbrook did not play in the fourth quarter in any of those three contests. Thabo Sefolosha scored a season-high 18 points Friday as Oklahoma City recorded its best home shooting night of the season - 57.5 percent - while posting its highest point total of 2012-13. "They have a really high-level team and we knew that," interim Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said. "We expected that. It's a great learning process for all of us by showing us where we want to be, where we strive to be, and where we will be." The Suns hope that type of progress comes sooner rather than later. Ending their nine-game skid against the Thunder could go a long way toward helping a Phoenix club that's lost two in a row and six of eight overall. "Any competitor would want to have a chance at them again, and I'm sure we do," said Hunter, whose team returns home after a 1-3 trip. The Suns' last win in this series came on the road Dec. 19, 2010, and Phoenix has lost five straight home meetings with the Thunder dating back to a 106-95 win March 14, 2009. Oklahoma City has averaged 114.3 points and shot 51.9 percent while winning the three previous matchups with the Suns this season by an average margin of 20.3. Each starter had at least nine points and Kevin Martin added 16 off the bench Friday for Oklahoma City, which used a 21-0 third-quarter run to blow the game open and scored more than any other opponent has against Phoenix this season. "Every loss is disheartening, but by that many points, that embarrassing - that adds a little more," said Suns forward Michael Beasley, who scored a team-high 25 off the bench. "That's where we want to be in the near future." Durant, who scored 41 in a 102-90 win at Phoenix on Jan. 14, has averaged 30.2 points in his last five against the Suns. He had only 21 on Friday but Kendrick Perkins shot 8 of 9 and scored 17 points - his most since being acquired from Boston in February 2011. Westbrook, who had a season-high 36 at Phoenix last month, scored 17 points in 25 minutes Friday and is shooting 51.1 percent in his last five games. Phoenix center Marcin Gortat averaged 17.0 points with 12.0 rebounds in his previous four games against the Thunder before being held to two and five, respectively, Friday.
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