Monty Williams expects to see more of Kawhi Leonard-Kevin Durant matchup

Apr 17, 2023, 5:39 PM

Kevin Durant Kawhi Leonard...

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a three-point shot over Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the second half Game One of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 16, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Clippers defeated the Suns 115-110. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Best versus best.

It’s what playoff basketball is all about, especially with two former NBA Finals MVPs in Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.

And following Sunday’s Game 1 loss in which Leonard led all scorers with 38 points followed by Durant’s 27, Suns head coach Monty Williams expects the two to continue to guard each other in crunch time.

“We are,” Williams said Monday. “A couple times Kevin got fouls on him, one time he pushed and the other time he reached late.

“When he just plays and makes Kawhi shoot over the top with a contested hand in the midrange, we’ll live with that. Both of those guys started away from each other and as the game progressed the more they were on each other. I think we’re going to see more of that as the series progresses.”

In the modern landscape of today’s NBA with such an emphasis on high-octane offense, one would figure not wanting to exert too much energy from offensive stars on the defensive end of the floor.

But with playoff basketball being where the most defense is played and guys taking these challenges personally, Williams has no problem with Durant wanting to take matters into his own hands.

“He wants it,” Williams said. “I think both teams are trying to do the same thing. You want to save their energy. You don’t want to get in the way of greatness. He knows he can come to me and say, ‘Coach, I got him and I can run with him.'”

All-NBA players are rarely ever shut down. They will find a way to get to their spots on the floor to contribute offensively.

However, if the Suns can slow Leonard down and force other players such as Russell Westbrook — who went 3-for-19 in Game 1 — to take more shots, that will bode well for Phoenix as it goes into a Game 2 down 0-1 for the first time in the Williams era.

“He’s a tough cover,” Durant said postgame Sunday. “He can score from all areas. … He’s an all-time player. So you have to continue to be physical and deny his catches and make it as tough as we can on him.”

Game 2 tips off from Footprint Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and, with the pregame show slated for 6 p.m.

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