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News » Thunder-Suns Preview

Thunder-Suns Preview

Thunder-Suns Preview
The last time they faced Oklahoma City, the Phoenix Suns appeared to be back on track with their run-and-gun style.

Now Phoenix would settle for a victory no matter how it looks.

The Suns try to avoid their longest losing streak since 2004 - also the last year they failed to make the playoffs - on Saturday night when they host a Thunder team that's been playing well without its star player.

Phoenix (34-31) finishes a three-game homestand after falling to Cleveland at home for the first time in 10 seasons, 119-111 on Thursday.

The Suns haven't lost seven straight since an eight-game skid from Feb. 4-22, 2004. Phoenix went 29-53 in 2003-04 to miss the playoffs before making the postseason the last four years, though that streak now appears to be in jeopardy.

"I really don't have any answers," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after his team was outscored 30-18 in the fourth quarter Thursday. "I think we try hard and we play hard. We just can't seem to close out games."

Phoenix has lost its last five games by eight points or fewer.

Gentry won his first three games after taking over for the fired Terry Porter, with the Suns scoring 140-plus points in each. But since a 140-118 win over visiting Oklahoma City on Feb. 20, Phoenix has dropped eight of 11 to fall into ninth place in the West and well behind Dallas for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

Steve Nash had his double-double streak snapped at four on Thursday but extended his career-best streak of 20-point games to seven.

The two-time MVP left the Suns' 110-102 win at Oklahoma City on Dec. 29 due to back spasms, but in Phoenix's two other victories against the Thunder this season, Nash averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 assists.

Shaquille O'Neal's production has leveled off since scoring 78 points in back-to-back wins on Feb. 27 and March 1. During the six-game slide, O'Neal is averaging 17.5 points and 7.3 rebounds.

He rested in the Suns' 99-98 win at Oklahoma City on Nov. 25, but O'Neal averaged 25.0 points and 10.5 boards in the last two wins over the Thunder.

Oklahoma City (18-47) closes its three-game trip following Wednesday's 112-99 loss to Denver. The Thunder, though, have won five of seven since Kevin Durant was sidelined by a sprained right ankle suffered in a 110-108 overtime loss at Dallas on Feb. 27.

The Thunder are 2-2 on the road without Durant compared to 3-25 with him in the lineup. The team's leading scorer, however, could return Saturday.

Oklahoma City's other second-year starting forward, Jeff Green, has played well since missing four games from March 2-8 with back spasms. He's averaged 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games back in the lineup. Green posted double-doubles in his last two games against the Suns.

Rookie Russell Westbrook struggled in Denver, missing 5-of-13 shots from the field for 13 points, but he's thrived against the Suns this season, averaging 21.7 points.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 13, 2009


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