After impressive stretch, Suns take on Thunder

NBA Basketball

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams wasn’t in the mood to look back after his team wrapped up a tough seven-game stretch against six teams in the top four in their respective conferences.

Phoenix emerged with a 5-2 record to move a half-game behind Western leader Utah.

“Now you want to maintain what you’re doing and increase it,” Williams said. “I’m of the mindset of how can we get better? How can we continue to play the way we’re playing for the rest of the season and go into the playoffs with consistency in all levels of our program, all levels of the game?

“But make no mistake about it, I don’t take it for granted.”

The Suns will break away from that stretch Sunday, starting a three-game trip in Oklahoma City, where they’ll face a Thunder team that has lost 19 of its past 21 games, including two in a row. OKC is 21-43 overall.

Phoenix (45-18) has won three straight, including a 121-100 victory over Utah on Friday.

“We have to have the same mindset going to OKC,” Williams said. “It’s pretty obvious that this part of our schedule was pretty daunting, and at the same time what we’ve talked about all year is being a team that’s gotta be consistent if we want to do what we know we can.

“That’s where my mind is — taking what we’ve learned from these seven games or so and continuing it on this road trip. Just don’t want to have any slippage at all just because we’re not playing Utah or Brooklyn or the Clippers.”

Sunday’s game will be the first in Oklahoma City for Chris Paul since he was traded to Phoenix in the offseason.

Paul has helped the Suns clinch their first playoff appearance since 2010.

The Thunder are coming off a franchise-record 57-point loss to Indiana on Saturday night, when the Thunder allowed 152 points, the most by the franchise since it moved to Oklahoma City from Seattle before the 2008-09 season.

“It’s embarrassing,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I’m not going to try to spin that. It’s tough. It’s demoralizing.”

But Daignuealt said his team needs to have a short memory.

“We’re all grateful to still be playing basketball,” he said. “Adversity tests the connection of the team. It tests everything. It squeezes you and it tells you who you are.”

In Saturday’s loss, the Thunder were without Luguentz Dort with a right-hip strain and Aleksej Pokusevski with a left-knee contusion.

The Thunder used their 28th different starting lineup Saturday, as newly acquired guard Charlie Brown Jr. made his first career start against the Pacers.

The teams have split their previous two meetings this season, both in Phoenix. Their most recent meeting was a 140-103 win by the Suns on April 2, which started a 14-game Oklahoma City losing streak.

–Field Level Media

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