OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City did what it hadn’t done very often, playing a sloppy third quarter against the Phoenix Suns.
It had been their best quarter this season, yet Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder managed to turn the ball over six times, most in the latter half of the frame, allowing the Suns to cut what had been a 24-point deficit early in the quarter to 11.
Because OKC had already played its best first quarter of the season and because it didn’t die in the fourth, but revved the game back up instead, it left with a 118-101 victory, its eighth win in nine games after an 0-4 start.
“I thought we played a great first half on both ends, both offensively and defensively,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said.
Terrance Ferguson appeared to set the tone with the game’s first basket, a driving dunk. Instead, the Thunder turned it over their next two trips down the court and trailed 5-2 early.
The onslaught then began.
On 10 of their next 13 trips, the Thunder came away with points and twice they came with three. When Paul George canned a trifecta with 3:49 remaining in the frame, the run was 19-0 and the lead was 24-5.
It was a part of the first of two 32-point quarters that eventually staked Oklahoma City to a 64-40 edge that would be pared all the way down to seven points at one point in the fourth quarter, but never closer.
“As a group, we sensed the energy,” George said. “We were the more aggressive team … We jumped on them.”
George enjoyed, perhaps, his most efficient game of the season, canning 11 of 19 from the field, 6 of 10 from 3-point land and all four of his foul shots to finish with 32 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Dennis Schroder didn’t shoot well — 6 of 19 — yet because he hit all six of his foul shots, finished with 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Steven Adams added 18 points on 9 of 13 shooting and nine rebounds.
The Thunder are now 3-1 since Russell Westbrook went down with a left-ankle sprain on the previous Monday against New Orleans.
In addition to the individual outings, the Thunder were collectively strong in two categories they haven’t been most of the season.
They canned 48.1 percent (13 of 27) of their 3-point attempts after entering the game shooting a league worst 28.8 percent and they made 95 percent (19 of 20) of their foul shots after entering shooting a second-worst-in-the-league 68.8 percent.
“We did a really great job at the free-throw line,” Donovan said. “Our guys work hard. I give them credit tonight. When we got fouled, [we got] to make them pay.”
T.J. Warren led Phoenix with 21 points, making 10 of 14 shots. Devin Booker added 19, making 7 of 18.
The Suns didn’t shoot poorly, finishing at 48.1 percent (39 of 81). However, they struggled from 3-point land — 7 of 26 — and like about every other Thunder opponent, coughed the ball up too often, 18 turnovers to OKC’s 13.
Though the third quarter was forgettable, the fourth proved fun for Oklahoma City. After the Suns got within 93-86 with 7:57 remaining, the final onslaught began.
After one steal, George led the break, flipped the ball off the top of the backboard and watched Jerami Grant sail into the air, grab it and throw it down, making it 112-92 with 2:55 remaining.
Alex Abrines wasn’t even on the court at the time, but may have summed up best how it felt.
“We’re playing together as a team,” OKC’s reserve shooting guard said. “And we’re enjoying playing together and that’s the best part.”