Phoenix Suns wilt late, fall to Oklahoma City despite Devin Booker's 46 points

by 24USATVMarch 20, 2023, 8:20 a.m. 20

The Suns squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of their 124-120 loss Sunday afternoon to the Thunder before 17,897 fans at Paycom Center.

“This one’s on me,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I’ve got to get guys in the game that can create a rhythm, especially on defense. We’re giving up way too many 30-point quarters, consecutively. That’s on me. I have to figure out the guys who can play together defensively as opposed to the starters to increase the momentum from an offensive and defensive standpoint.”

Booker scored a game-high 46 points, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went for 40 as the Thunder used an 18-2 run after trailing by 10 points in pulling away to their first win over Phoenix (38-33) this season.

“It should’ve have come down to (the end), but it did,” Suns veteran point guard Chris Paul said.

Having now lost four of its last five games, Phoenix led by as many as 15 points before falling to the Thunder (35-36). The two teams meet one more time this season April 2 at OKC.

“We’re at the point of the season every game counts,” Booker said. “You want to get as many wins as you can. We let one slip tonight.”

The Suns gave up an insane 31 points off 14 turnovers.

“We turned that ball over and it leads to 3s and And-1s,” Suns wing Josh Okogie said. “Every time we turned it over, that’s more than two points per turnover. So literally, every time we turned it over, that’s two points. Might as well give them a little more than two points. For me, that’s the game right there.”

Phoenix also lost the free throw battle as the Thunder went 29-of-36 from the line compared to Suns finishing 17-of-24.

The Suns were called for 31 fouls while OKC committed 20.

“We’ve been talking about it for a while,” said Williams as the Suns are 26th in the NBA in committed fouls per game at 21.4. “We’re one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to fouling. We have to correct it.”

The Suns were without Deandre Ayton (hip) and Kevin Durant (ankle). Ayton suffered a right hip contusion in Thursday’s win over the Magic while Durant has been sidelined since twisting his left ankle in a pregame workout before what would’ve been his Suns home debut March 8 against the Thunder.

Neither Durant nor Ayton made the trip to Oklahoma City.

“It sucks,” said Suns guard Landry Shamet, who returned after being out two months with a foot injury. “We played with the game a little bit. We weren’t as solid as we needed to be, especially down the stretch."

Williams pointed to Gilgeous-Alexander’s 3-point play with 0.4 seconds left in the third quarter off Cameron Payne’s turnover as a momentum-changing play in favor of the Thunder.

Booker was called for his fourth foul on the play that was reviewed to see if he fouled on the play before time expired in the quarter. The basket plus one pulled OKC with six, 96-90, going into the fourth.

Still, Phoenix pushed the lead back up to 10 points early in the fourth before Oklahoma City responded with an 18-2 run to go up 108-102 with 5:46 left in the game, forcing Williams to call a timeout.

The Thunder increased their advantage to double digits, 119-109, and then withstood a Booker scoring barrage.

The All-Star guard scored nine of Phoenix’s last 11 points as his 3 shrunk OKC’s lead down to two, 122-120, with 8.9 seconds left.

Lu Dort put the game away with two free throws with 4.8 seconds as Phoenix was out of timeouts.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.


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