Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns Preview (2/24/23): Prediction, Starting Lineups, Odds

The Oklahoma City Thunder (28-30) will try to forget their heartbreaking loss last night to Utah and prevail over the Phoenix Suns (32-28). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is questionable while Aleksej Pokusevski remains out for the Thunder. On the other side, the Suns will be without Kevin Durant and Landry Shamet. Cameron Payne is also questionable for Phoenix.

Which Western Conference squad will pick up a key seeding victory? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineups are below.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns Betting Odds

The Suns are a considerable favorite as the spread is -8 with a -340 moneyline. Oklahoma City needs to win this game at least 26% of the time for their +295 moneyline to hold a positive expected value. The Thunder lead the league with a 62.5 cover percentage, and they are 44-21-2 ATS in their last 67 road games. Phoenix, meanwhile, is 11th with a 53.3 cover percentage.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns Prediction

It’s a back-to-back for Oklahoma City with yesterday’s game in Utah going to overtime, and Phoenix is a tough opponent even without Kevin Durant. Gilgeous-Alexander is questionable, but I don’t expect him to play. Still, +8.5 is too many points to give this Thunder squad, so I’m taking Oklahoma City to cover. I also believe the Thunder win this around 28-30% of the time, so their +295 moneyline is solid.

Phoenix is a slow team that grinds out possessions with endless pick and rolls. They rank 22nd in pace, 2nd in midrange frequency, 6th in pick and roll ball screen frequency, and 30th in finishing at the rim frequency. Therefore, teams that defend the point of attack well and switch seamlessly can clog the Suns offense. It’s difficult for them to improvise because only Chris Paul and Devin Booker can create their own shot off the dribble.

Enter the Thunder, who rank 6th in terms of opponent shot quality via pick and roll ball screens (per ShotQuality). They are also 10th in ball screen navigation and 4th in passing lane defense (per BBall Index). Luguentz Dort, Jalen Williams, and Kenrich Williams can lock down opponents on the perimeter, and Jaylin Williams is radically improving as an interior defender. Oklahoma City will be able to switch all night against this pick and roll heavy Suns team.

Deandre Ayton poses a problem because of his size and rebounding, but the Thunder do an excellent job showing multiple defenders inside while not abandoning the three-point line. As a result, they rank 4th defending finishes at the rim and allow the 6th lowest opponent open three rate (per ShotQuality).

On the other end, the Suns likely struggle to handle the Thunder’s fast-paced assault. They place tremendous stress on the rim and have playmaking across all positions, which helps explain their 25% open three rate – 3rd highest in the league. The young Thunder also thrive at cutting to the basket, and the Suns rank 21st defending cuts. If Gilgeous-Alexander sits, the offense assuredly takes a massive hit; however, they have had offensive explosions without him (150 points vs Boston) and possess enough playmakers to initiate offense. Overall, Oklahoma City can keep this game close.

Betting Trends

  • Thunder are 44-21-2 ATS in their last 67 road games
  • Thunder are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games following a straight up loss
  • Suns are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a straight up loss
  • Thunder are 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings

Key Matchups

Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.

Josh Giddey Minutes

When Giddey is on the court without Gilgeous-Alexander or Jalen Williams, the offense can get ugly – especially when Dort tries to initiate possessions. If the Thunder are going to win this game, it’s essential that Giddey steps up his scoring by converting his drives and floaters. Isaiah Joe must see heavy minutes tonight because his shooting threat off of a pindown or Spain pick and roll opens up the court for Giddey.

Free Throws, Turnovers, & Offensive Rebounds

Phoenix ranks 28th in opponent free throw rate, and Gilgeous-Alexander leads the NBA in free throws made. His 90.8 FT% means a trip to the charity stripe results in 1.816 expected points. To put that into perspective, a 3PA by a 60.5 3PT% shooter translates to 1.815 expected points. If Shai plays, it’s vital for Phoenix to limit his free throw attempts here. In addition, the Suns rank 17th in turnover percentage while the Thunder are 3rd in opponent turnover rate. Phoenix must take care of the ball and limit points off of turnovers too.

The Suns’ edge here is rebounding; Oklahoma City is 29th in opponent offensive rebound rate while Phoenix is 6th in offensive rebound rate. If Ayton can consistently provide put-backs and multiple possessions, then Phoenix’s cover chances increase dramatically.

Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG: Luguentz Dort
SF: Josh Giddey
PF: Jalen Williams
C: Jaylin Williams

Phoenix Suns Starting Lineup

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Josh Okogie
PF: Torrey Craig
C: Deandre Ayton

Key Injuries

Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Q), Aleksej Pokusevski (O), Chet Holmgren (O)

Phoenix Suns Injuries: Kevin Durant (O), Cameron Payne (Q), Landry Shamet (O)

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Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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