Phoenix Sun star Nurkic irked by officials after setting Suns’ rebound record

Phoenix — Jusuf Nurkic set a team record with 31 rebounds in an NBA game, the most in 13 years, but he didn’t want to talk about it after the Suns lost 118-110 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Nurkic and Phoenix coach Frank Vogel criticized some missed foul calls after the Thunder came back from a 24-point deficit to win.

“I don’t know, man; I’m just trying to perform my job as best I can. But it’s kind of twisted up when you have 13 offensive rebounds and 16 shots but no free throws,” Nurkic explained. “As hard as I work, I feel like I get fouled as much as anyone in the league.

“And I’m not here saying — we lost the game, it is what it is — [but] it’s just, it’s not really common sense. At least one [free throw]. [To] not even have one? But I know it happens. I ain’t the first one, and I ain’t going to be the last, either, unfortunately.”

Vogel, in particular, was focused on how often he thought Suns star Kevin Durant was fouled.

“We’ve got to be better,” the coach said. “[But] I’ll start by saying they fouled the s— out of Kevin Durant all night. Whether he has the ball and he’s getting stripped three, four, maybe even five times, and every time he tries to get open, he’s being held, which is something I really want the league to look at.”

Both Vogel and Nurkic noted the Suns’ 22 turnovers, as well. Oklahoma City had six.

Jusuf Nurkic's basketball intelligence fortifies his fit with the Suns  offensive attack - Bright Side Of The Sun

“That’s where it starts, the turnover problem,” Vogel explained. “We’ve had trouble with it all year. This club leads the league in forcing turnovers; we did not handle their pressure well enough, nor did we recognize our own length when attempting to touch the paint. “It was expensive.”

Nurkic added 14 points to Phoenix’s total, but he also committed five turnovers.

“Another turnover issue,” he explained. “What did we get? 22? So, I believe we can all agree in the locker room that this s— needs to change. We will witness something new in the future.”

Nurkic’s efforts off the boards resulted in the most rebounds by any player since Kevin Love’s 31 in 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Suns' Jusuf Nurkic sets franchise mark with 31 rebounds, but upset with  lack of foul calls: 'Really messed up' -

“Incredible,” Vogel stated about Nurkic. “Putting the loss aside, a 31-rebound night at any point in NBA history is simply a tremendous performance. The greatest in Phoenix Suns history. “He’s a beast on defense.”

On November 12, 2010, Love led the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 112-103 victory over the New York Knicks with 31 points and 31 rebounds. Nurkic was 16 years old when Love announced the total.

“I saw, on the screen, that I had 28,” Nurkic stated when asked if he knew he was on his way to history during the game. “But it’s not really important. I mean, it’s awesome, but we lost the game.”

Nurkic broke Tyson Chandler’s Phoenix record of 27 rebounds against the Atlanta Hawks in January 2016. Nurkic’s previous career high was 23 points for the Portland Trail Blazers against the Sacramento Kings in January 2019. Earlier this season, the 7-footer scored 22 against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets.

The Suns played Sunday without star guard Devin Booker, who hurt his right ankle late in a defeat to the visiting Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Oklahoma City rose to 42-18, gaining a half-game lead over Minnesota and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference’s Northwest Division. Before losing to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, the Thunder had won six consecutive games.

The Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 35 points, and all five starters reached double digits. Jalen Williams scored 22 points, Chet Holmgren 14, Luguentz Dort 13, and Josh Giddey 10. Gilgeous-Alexander also had eight rebounds and nine assists.

Phoenix’s Bradley Beal scored 31 points (35-26). Beal, who was ejected Saturday night after a scuffle with Houston’s Jalen Green, played 33 minutes in his second game back after a strained hamstring. Durant contributed 20 points, while Eric Gordon scored 15 after missing three games due to a groin injury.

Vogel stated before Sunday’s game that Booker’s ankle was still being assessed and that the team would have more information Tuesday.

Initially, Phoenix overcame Booker’s absence, surging to a 17-4 lead. However, the Thunder scored the next ten baskets and closed the first quarter on a 24-7 surge, leading 28-22. Gilgeous-Alexander scored ten points in the period.
Nurkic played seven minutes in the first quarter and grabbed 12 rebounds, but the Suns only got one rebound after he went to the bench for a break.

“He’s a big guy, man. He works hard down there. He competes. “He tries to get every rebound,” Beal said of Nurkic. “I believe that speaks volumes; he is unquestionably the best rebounding big man in the game. His ability to utilize his bulk and clear space.

“[I] tip my hat to him.”

Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered Sunday’s game with a 31.4 scoring average, scored 18 points in the first half as the Thunder led 66-52 at halftime. Beal scored 17 points to lead the Suns.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 24 points before the Suns rallied to close the gap to 86-83 late in the third quarter. Gordon’s three-pointer early in the fourth quarter gave the Suns their first lead since the first quarter, 91-89.

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