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News » Phoenix steals close win

Phoenix steals close win

Phoenix steals close win
Play with energy, passion and purpose? Check.

Compete hard every night, home or away? Check.

Close out an opponent on your home floor when you lead by as many as 16 and enter the final period ahead 11? Uh, baby steps, people.

Led by two-time league MVP Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns stole a 99-98 victory over the Thunder by outscoring Oklahoma City 29-17 in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night before a sold-out Ford Center crowd of 19,136.

But, despite the loss lifting the Thunder's losing streak to 12 games and dropping its league-worst record to 1-14, significant improvement was on display in only Game 2 of the Scott Brooks era.

The Thunder had given up an average of 108 points in its previous eight games. Tuesday's final margin was the team's closest loss since a four-point defeat against Atlanta on Nov. 9. And the Suns didn't take their first lead of the second half until Matt Barnes' game-winning 3-pointer with 25.7 seconds left on the game clock.

"I'm proud of our guys," said Thunder coach Brooks. "We talked about...this being a process. We're all about getting better every day, every practice and every game. I think we've done that. Tonight was a heck of a game."

It would have been a Thunder win had Oklahoma City not misfired on seven of its first eight shots to start the final quarter, allowing Phoenix to cut a double-digit lead to one with 5:11 left to play. The Thunder turned the ball over three times over that span, exhibiting the type of drought that has become commonplace this season but was nowhere to be found in the first three quarters.

Still, Oklahoma City held a 98-96 lead after Chris Wilcox (18 points, six rebounds) scored a layup with 34.9 seconds remaining. But Nash then found Barnes for the game-winner and one of his game-high 15 assists to go with 20 points and eight rebounds.

The Thunder had one last chance to win it in the final seconds, but Kevin Durant missed a 13-footer, and Russell Westbrook couldn't convert a jumper after corralling the loose ball.

"We just have to continue to figure out some things and work on our execution," Brooks said of the final possession.

Noticeably different from the past few weeks was the Thunder's ball movement, hustle and rebounding. The Thunder finished with a season-high 28 assists on 36 made field goals and also recorded a season-high 13 steals.

Although the Suns played without Shaquille O'Neal, who took the night off, Oklahoma City out-rebounded Phoenix 40-34, including a 15-6 advantage on the offensive end that led to 13 more field-goal attempts.

One sequence midway through the second quarter characterized the Thunder's hustle on the night and the energy Brooks promised to bring the fans for the remainder of the season. Wilcox, Damien Wilkins and Joe Smith batted and tipped the ball around the glass en route to four offensive rebounds amid Suns defenders.

"We're getting better," said Kevin Durant, who finished with a game-high 29 points. "I feel a winning streak coming up."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: November 28, 2008


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