The Phoenix Suns tip off a three-game road trip with the first stop visiting the Oklahoma City Thunder for a Sunday matinee matchup.
Phoenix halted a three-game losing skid with a home victory over Orlando on Thursday but open this away swing shorthanded, not only missing Kevin Durant but playing without star center Deandre Ayton today.
Oklahoma City continues to jockey for position in the play-in tournament, currently sitting ninth in the conference but just half a game up from the 11th spot. The Thunder are leaning into their home-court edge, having won and covered in each of their last four contests inside the Paycom Center.
I run down the point spread and Over/Under total for this Western war and give my best NBA picks and predictions for Suns at Thunder on March 19.
Suns vs Thunder best odds
Suns vs Thunder picks and predictions
It’s tough to take much info from the previous meetings between the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder considering Phoenix’s roster swap, Durant’s ankle accident in warmup, and the fact OKC has been without All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in both matchups with Phoenix this season.
Gilgeous-Alexander will be in action tonight and that full-strength Thunder offense is a rough draw for a Suns roster running thin and missing their defensive anchor inside.
The Suns are among the best teams at keeping opponents out of the paint and face an OKC squad with the highest drive rating in the NBA and the third-most points in the paint per game. Ayton’s 7-foot frame and quick rotation on the help defense is a big part of protecting the paint, and the Suns will miss his ability to change shots inside tonight.
Phoenix looks to lesser-used centers Jake Landale and Bismack Biyombo in Ayton’s absence and coach Williams could decide to go smaller against an up-tempo Oklahoma City team. The Thunder sit No. 2 in pace rating and their aggressive transition will test the gas of a Suns roster running quite thin without Ayton in action.
The Suns will not only miss his defensive presence but also his scoring efficiency, with Ayton shooting close to 59% on the season. One of the best ways to slow a transition team is to shoot well from the floor and force them to inbound the ball on most possessions. Phoenix loses its top interior producer and that pushes more Suns’ shots to the outside.
Oklahoma City finds another gear at home, putting up an average of 121 points per home game while firing at better than 48% from the floor. The Thunder boast one of the best net ratings as a host and have come through for OKC backers in four straight appearances in front of the Thunder faithful while ranking among the best home bets in the NBA.
Before Ayton was ruled out, Phoenix was a 2.5-point road favorite for Sunday’s matinee. We’ve seen this line swing as far as OKC -2, with the market consensus settling in at OKC -1 this morning.
Ayton’s absence absolutely changes things for the Suns on both ends of the floor against a team like the Thunder, and the adjustment doesn’t seem significant enough.
My best bet: Thunder -1 (-103 at Pinnacle)
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Suns vs Thunder spread analysis
Before Deandre Ayton was ruled out, Phoenix opened as big as a 2.5-point road favorite in OKC. Upon his status update, books adjusted the spread to Thunder -1.5. As of Sunday morning, the market has slimmed a bit on Oklahoma City with the home team now laying -1.
The Suns were already ready thin on talent. The team traded away much of its depth in the Kevin Durant deal and when their newly acquired superstar went down with an ankle injury, the roster was stretched even thinner.
Ayton’s hip injury takes pretty much all the punch out of Phoenix’s frontcourt, as lesser-used reserves will share duties at center Sunday. However, Phoenix is expecting guard Landry Shamet to make his first appearance in 25 games, but coach Monty Williams said Shamet will be on a minutes restriction today.
The Thunder are home for just the second time in the past six games and are coming off a road loss in Toronto. OKC is one of the better home teams in the NBA, owning a net rating of +5.6 as a host and putting together a 22-14 ATS mark inside Paycom Center.
These clubs clashed earlier in the month, with Phoenix winning 132-101 as an 11-point home chalk on March 8 – when Durant suffered his freak ankle injury in the pregame warmup. However, OKC was without star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as well as standout rookie Jalen Williams and was playing the second of back-to-back nights. These rosters look very different for both sides tonight.
Suns vs Thunder Over/Under analysis
The total for Sunday’s showdown opened between 234.5 and 235.5 points and was bouncing between those two numbers. Around 8:30 a.m. ET, the market started moving toward the Under with most books dealing the total between 233 to 234 points.
Ayton’s injury changes the dynamic of this game, as Phoenix loses its big man in the middle against a Thunder attack that relentlessly goes after the rim. The Suns will look to backup centers to fill that gap but head coach Monty Williams may choose to fight fire with fire, and roll out a smaller, speedier lineup against one of the fastest tempos in the NBA.
Oklahoma City’s offense thrives on its home court, ranked No. 9 in offensive rating at home (116.9 at home vs. 111.2 on road) where it scores an average of 121 points per game – the second-highest home scoring average in the league. That’s trickled down to a 23-13 Over/Under record in OKC this season.
As for the Suns, this offense is in shambles Sunday. Losing Durant was a big hit to a roster that relied heavily on the starting five to shoulder the load. Phoenix has watched its offensive rating dip to 114.1 since Durant went down – a noticeable decline from the mark of 124.6 in three games with Durant on the floor. Now with Ayton out, the Suns are down more than 18 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Phoenix has gone 3-1-1 Over/Under in the five games without Durant in action and owns a 17-16-2 O/U record on the road this season.
Suns vs Thunder betting trend to know
The Thunder are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Suns vs. Thunder.
Suns vs Thunder game info
|Location:||Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, OK|
|Date:||Sunday, March 19, 2023|
|Tip-off:||3:30 p.m. ET|
|TV:||Bally Arizona, Bally Oklahoma|