Another double-double for Steven Adams in OKC Thunder win over Phoenix Suns
Big Kiwi Steven Adams produced a timely standout display in Phoenix to help keep the Oklahoma City Thunder on track for the eighth and final NBA Western Conference playoff spot.
The 21-year-old second-year centre posted yet another double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds - his sixth in the last nine games - to play a key part in a valuable 109-97 Thunder win at the Phoenix Suns on Monday (NZT).
The victory improved OKC to 42-32, two games in the loss column clear of the 39-34 New Orleans Pelicans and now four in front of the 38-36 Suns.
Adams came up with a much-needed high-energy performance and was rewarded by coach Scott Brooks with a team-high 42 minutes before being subbed out late when the Suns started deliberately fouling the big Kiwi and he missed three of four free-throws.
Still the 2.13m Scots College alumnus had his way with the Suns as he snared five offensive boards and went six of nine from the floor to provide valuable possessions and points for the Thunder.
He also had a steal and a block as he continues to showcase his emerging game over the latter part of this season.
Adams has now posted double-figures in rebounds in six of his last seven games and has emerged a much more consistent scorer to boot.
He is averaging 7.7 points and 7.5 rebounds for the season, but has significantly lifted those numbers since returning from a month out dealing with a fractured hand.
The Thunder are reeling from news that superstar forward Kevin Durant will not return this season because of ongoing foot problems, while regular starting power forward Serge Ibaka is also doubtful for the playoffs after recent knee surgery.
But they have won seven of their last 10 games to retain a firm grip on the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Their reward, should they hold on to the position over the last eight games, will be a first-round series against the red-hot Golden State Warriors.
The Thunder were paced by 33 points (10/29 FG, 1/7 3PT), nine rebounds and seven assists from Russell Westbrook against the Suns. They had trailed by 11 points (24-35) after the first quarter and by eight (54-62) at the half.
But they closed the deficit to just three points by the end of the third quarter and sealed the deal on the back of a 13-0 run in the final stanza.
Backup point guard DJ Augustin added 19 points off the bench and shooting guard Dion Waiters had 18 points for the Thunder who now head into a tough patch with three straight games against higher-ranked opponents.
They host the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday (NZT), visit Memphis on Saturday and then return home for a clash against the Houston Rockets next Monday.