Tonight's opponent has already been active on that front, adding a piece to the mix. Phoenix dealt for Charlotte's Jason Richardson to give the Suns another potent scorer. These two clubs met before the trade, and it was much the same story for the Thunder. OKC jumped out quickly and led going into the final quarter before falling apart in a big way. Phoenix used a 29-17 advantage in pulling out a one-point win at the Ford Center on Nov. 25.
Now over a month later, both teams look much different. Kevin Durant is on a ten-game stretch of scoring 20 or more points, solidifying his place as an All-Star caliber player. Shaquille O'Neal didn't play in the first match-up, but he and Richardson offer different obstacles for OKC.
O'Neal dominates the post, and he should continue that trend against the undersized Thunder post players. Richardson is an explosive combo player that should create problems for both Durant and Desmond Mason. Coach Brooks will have his hands full trying to play defense against the Suns. Phoenix is 5-5 the last ten games but has also played a rough schedule.
If any game of the year should be played with attitude, it is this contest. OKC had the win before and is also coming off a terrible road trip. Durant needs help but might be enough by himself to keep the score close. Jeff Green may be the difference maker from outside, and a shooter's roll is what the Thunder needs right now.