The Oklahoma City Thunder struck the Phoenix Suns down 116-98 at the US Airways Center yesterday, burying the Suns' playoff hopes deeper.
Last night's defeat leaves Planet Orange two games below .500.
Vince Carter put up a monster effort to lead the Suns, scoring 28 points for Planet Orange while Jared Dudley added 16. No one else scored in the double-digits, however, as the Suns continue to whimper toward the finish line. This marked their fourth straight loss.
Adding insult to injury, Zabian Dowdell and Aaron Brooks were ejected with a minute to go in the fourth quarter -- after a referee pissed them off by reportedly saying something disrespectful to them.
Thunder star Kevin Durant was held to 22 points but his teammates put in a strong effort. Five players scored in double-digits for the Thunder: Russell Westbrook (16), Kendrick Perkins (13), Serge Ibaka (15), James Harden (22).
The Suns gambled at the trade deadline in February, deciding they would rather make the playoffs and lose in the first round than trade away Steve Nash and concede the team needs to be rebuilt. While a playoff entry is still technically possible, it's almost unfathomable that the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets could lose enough games to allow the Suns back into the race.
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It's unclear what the Suns could have gotten for Nash at the deadline, but it's clear that all parties involved need a fresh start. Nash is still an excellent player but his career is in decline, and his window to become a champion will likely close soon. The Suns are nowhere near contention, and haven't been since the start of the season.
Champing at the eighth seed does not a contender make.
The Phoenix Suns play the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night at 7 on FSAZ. For much of the season, the Phoenix Suns have played good teams well while putting up stinkers against bottom-dwellers. We've pointed out this bad habit in a number of blogs criticizing the team's inability to focus for complete games or win the contests they're supposed to. With that in mind, expect the Suns to come out and destroy the Clippers.