PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns played like they remembered what happened the last time they played the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A loss in late January put the Suns at 8-8 and led to a postgame rant from head coach Monty Williams in his media session.
The Suns this season have had an inability to put away far inferior teams, but Friday night was not one of those nights. They smashed the Thunder 140-103.
Phoenix led by 43-13 through the first quarter. That was a season high for points and season low for points allowed in the first quarter. It was the first 30-point differential through one quarter in franchise history, per Basketball-Reference, and the 13th time in league history a team was up at least 30 after the first 12 minutes.
After the game was tied 5-5, the Suns went on a 38-8 run to close the quarter. At one point it was a 19-0 spurt.
The defense was all over a Thunder (20-28) squad really lacking bodies, as they were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazley and Mike Muescala. But even with those key names missing on Wednesday, the Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors, something that was surely highlighted in prep.
OKC shot 4-of-25 (16.0%) from the field in that first quarter with six turnovers.
Offensively, the tone was set immediately by the Suns’ two All-Stars. Chris Paul had a rare opening where he was looking to establish himself as a scorer, shooting 3-for-3 from the field, while Devin Booker had 16 points in the opening period.
While some surges would come from the Thunder, Phoenix (34-14) did a good job of resetting whenever that was the case. Oklahoma City got the deficit down to 18 in the second and third quarter, but in the third, Williams called a timeout and then his team responded with a 21-12 run to extend the lead back to 27.
“I liked the response in the huddle,” Williams said. “Our guys have a great deal of remorse when things aren’t executed properly or when we know we can play better. When we get that kind of reaction or response to what happens on the floor, we usually have good production in our favor when we step back on the court.”
It was a full fourth quarter of garbage time, and that’s not something Phoenix Suns Arena is used to celebrating in the last decade.
Booker had 32 points, two rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers in 30 minutes. Paul added 17 points, five rebounds, 12 assists and three steals on perfect 8-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes.
Paul in his last play of the fourth quarter had a weird collision with former Suns guard Ty Jerome. Coming around a screen, Paul had his head go into Jerome’s shoulder. After the hit, Paul immediately grabbed at his right shoulder and came out of the game. He was looked at by trainers on the bench and spent a few minutes fiddling with it before looking fine.
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) April 3, 2021
Those are certainly heartstopping moments in the Suns’ second half of the season and keeping an eye for his name on the injury report prior to Monday’s showdown against the Houston Rockets will be worthwhile.
Second-year forward Cam Johnson played only one minute in the first quarter before coming out due a cut above his left eye. Johnson got stitches in the locker room and then came back in the second half to score 17 points. He said it was weird to be live in a game and then watching it in the back, which included the trainers telling him what happened on the TV while he had his eyes closed during certain points of getting stitched.
Booker has talked about the Suns needing to learn through experience to grow in certain areas. On Wednesday against a depleted Chicago Bulls team, the first quarter scoreline was 39-37 Suns. This time around on Friday, the offensive production was there again, but this time the defense was too.
“I think that’s the most important part right now is getting better, continuing to get better to reach our goals for later down the line,” he said. “We always say we’re not playing against our opponent, we’re playing against ourselves and what can we get better in. Even after the first quarter being up 30, going into the bench everybody (is) relaying the message of, ‘Let’s keep getting better and let’s keep working on our stuff.’”