Thunder-Suns Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder haven’t produced back-to-back 50-win

seasons since a mid-1990s run when the franchise was located in

Seattle.

That will change with one more victory.

Oklahoma City seeks its fifth straight win Wednesday night when

it visits the fading Phoenix Suns.

The SuperSonics won at least 55 games from 1992-93 through

1997-98, and the franchise is beginning to realize similar success

after relocating to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-09 season.

The Thunder (49-24) lead the Northwest Division and sit fourth

in the Western Conference, five games ahead of fifth-place Denver.

They won their fourth straight Tuesday, 115-114 in overtime against

Golden State.

Kevin Durant scored 39 points and Russell Westbrook made up for

a poor shooting night by hitting the winning free throw with 11.4

seconds remaining in the extra session. Durant was used as a decoy

on the final possession as Westbrook drove the lane and was

fouled.

”Russell’s a big-time scorer and we wanted to get him something

driving to the basket, which is his strength. We knew they were

going to call a foul if he drives so hard and tried to score,”

Durant said. ”It was good for either person. I could have posted

up at the free-throw line and tried to get a shot or Russell could

have took it to the rim.”

Oklahoma City has won eight overtime games this season, one

short of the NBA record set by Sacramento in 2000-01.

”It is not the way we wanted to execute down the stretch, but

we did get the win and I give our guys credit for staying together

and hanging in there,” coach Scott Brooks said.

Westbrook scored 32 points March 6 in a 122-118 overtime victory

against Phoenix, which has lost three straight and is on the verge

of missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons – and

only the third time since the 1988-89 season.

The 10th-place Suns (36-37) fell 4 1/2 games behind Memphis for

the West’s final playoff spot with a 116-113 loss to Sacramento on

Tuesday. Phoenix has dropped eight of 11.

”You have to play your way into the playoffs,” coach Alvin

Gentry said. ”Right now, the way we’re playing we don’t deserve to

be in the playoffs. All the teams we are chasing are really good.

And we are not. We are still alive in the playoff race, but we are

basically on life support.”

Jared Dudley and Channing Frye scored 21 points apiece, while

Steve Nash had 14 assists to go along with 13 points.

Grant Hill had 30 points Dec. 19 in a 113-110 win against the

Thunder, but was held scoreless in 40 minutes in the most recent

meeting last month.

Vince Carter missed the December matchup after being acquired in

a multiplayer deal with Orlando the previous day. He’s averaged

31.0 points in the two losses against Oklahoma City this season,

but comes in having totaled 12 over the last three games.