Thursday, March 30, 2023
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NBA Preview: Phoenix Suns (38-32) at Oklahoma City Thunder (34-36)

Kevin Durant, a former star for the Oklahoma City Thunder, will not participate in Phoenix’s game against the Thunder on Sunday in Oklahoma City.

However, Phoenix’s hopes of moving up in the Western Conference standings depend on the performance of yet another Thunder player.

During his time with Oklahoma City from 2015 to 2017, Cameron Payne was far from a star, and he is no longer one.

However, the veteran guard has landed a position with the Suns as Chris Paul, another former Thunder star,’s backup point guard.

Getting Payne back to his best would be huge for Phoenix’s championship hopes, even though Durant and Paul appear to be more important players.

Payne has only played in two of his 10 games since returning from a sprained foot injury, missing all but two of them.

Payne, on the other hand, has been moving in the right direction. Since being activated, he has shot 53.1%, going 17-for-33, after shooting just 38.6% in the first six games.

Payne is averaging 15.5 points per game in his last two games after scoring 18 points and having five assists in Thursday’s victory over the Orlando Magic.

Payne likewise has only one turnover in almost 38 minutes over the last two games.

Thursday’s dominate snapped a three-match long string of failures for the Suns.

After suffering a sprained left ankle prior to what was supposed to be his home debut against the Thunder on March 8, Durant is expected to miss his sixth consecutive game.

Despite the fact that the Suns and Thunder are in very different situations—Phoenix is aggressively pursuing a championship, while Oklahoma City is on the verge of playoff contention as it works toward coming out of a rebuild—the teams are still not too far apart in the standings.

Only four games separate the Suns (38-32) and Thunder (34-36), with Phoenix currently sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference and Oklahoma City in ninth heading into Saturday.

The Thunder’s three-game winning streak was ended by a 128-111 defeat in Toronto. Oklahoma City has won six of its last eight by and large.

Coach Mark Daigneault of the Thunder continues to experiment with various rotations in an effort to find effective combinations.

The most significant change in the game on Thursday was the addition of more than 21 minutes for Tre Mann, who had been available but hadn’t played in five of Oklahoma City’s previous six games.

The matchup on Sunday is the third of four this season and their first in Oklahoma City. The first two were won by the Suns by an average of 20 points.

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