Kevin Durant’s unreal 4th quarter, game-winner get Suns comeback win over Bulls
Jan 22, 2024, 11:46 PM
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — If you were a Phoenix Suns fan not properly appreciating Kevin Durant playing for your basketball team, that should do the trick.
For the second straight night, Durant reached 40 points (in 40-plus minutes) and got to a season-high 43 on Monday with a 17-point tsunami in the fourth quarter of a bonkers 115-113 Suns comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.
The appreciation could seriously be deserved for the game-winning shot alone.
DeMar DeRozan, the best clutch shot-maker in the NBA today, hit a game-tying bucket with 22 seconds left after his 2 the previous time down was answered by a Durant 3.
Phoenix called a timeout and got the ball to Durant, who everyone knew was 1) getting the ball and 2) shooting it with how engulfed in flames he had become. While marked by phenomenal defender and 6-foot-5 guard Alex Caruso, Durant was fouled with six seconds left to trigger a sideline out of bounds.
The play was simply to get Durant the ball and get out of the way, again. But the Bulls were on it, and the audible is for center Jusuf Nurkic to flash into space, trusting the savvy passer’s read from there. Nurkic made an outstanding one and even better pass.
Durant, as he has a few dozen times this year already, faked one way to set up the backdoor pass that duo has now made seamless.
The pass created enough space and everyone knew it was going in after that.
KD GIVES THE SUNS THE LEAD WITH 1.6 SECONDS LEFT 😱
— NBA (@NBA) January 23, 2024
But. But! Let’s not do that shot the disservice of making it sound so simple. Caruso did a tremendous job to recover and spring up into the air to attempt a block from behind.
Durant realized this (!) while in mid-air (!!) and moved the ball forward out of Caruso’s reach and out of his shooting pocket (!!!) to put the ball through the bucket with the net hardly moving (!!!!).
It is astounding.
“Yeah! I happen to see him late,” Durant said of Caruso’s effort. “I was like, ‘Oh they gonna give me a wide-open pull-up at the elbow?!’ And then I just for some reason, I seen him out of my peripheral. I seen somebody flying so hard and just tried to get a good one up.
“It felt great leaving my hands.”
Durant confirmed it’s not something you can practice but shouted out watching the greats like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant do that, two guys who were no strangers to mid-air adjustments on shots when a hand got too close.
“I haven’t seen a shot like that,” Suns head coach Frank Vogel said of Durant’s.
After a foul by the Suns with one to give while being up two with 1.6 seconds left, Chicago found DeRozan on an immensely difficult fadeaway 3 that he nearly banked in. Durant and Booker both agreed in the locker room it looked like it had a chance. Durant, however, did enough to raise that difficulty meter with his contest.
Tough look on the final play. DeRozan almost got it to go. pic.twitter.com/s9Zvn4eVvf
— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) January 23, 2024
To go back to the pass from Nurkic, Durant said afterward that comes from familiarity with each other’s games over the years. Nurkic loves that pass, Durant loves that cut. Easy enough.
“Once the first time it happened, it’s been an easy connection since then,” Durant said, noting it was in the preseason.
Durant’s takeover followed what was a rough two-and-a-half quarters from the Suns on both ends of the floor that left them down by as many as 23 points on the second game of a back-to-back.
But Durant was able to ride the momentum created by backup center Drew Eubanks, a spark that will be impossible for Eubanks to top the rest of the year.
At 3:39 remaining in the third quarter with the Suns down 17, Eubanks received a technical foul. After he got two free throws of his own to go down, he defended Bulls center Andre Drummond in the post, a giant of a man. Drummond barreled into Eubanks to create space at the rim, where Eubanks conceded to hacking Drummond across the arms to send a poor free-throw shooter to the line. Drummond took exception to this, shoving Eubanks lightly in the back while Eubanks was turned around the other way holding his hands up.
now Andre Drummond receives a technical pic.twitter.com/pCzUT2E4aO
— Cage (@ridiculouscage) January 23, 2024
Drummond was T’d up.
“I got to hit him. He’s huge,” Eubanks said with a laugh, bringing up how the scouting report on Drummond is to do exactly what he did.
As any technical foul for the opposition does, this really woke up the crowd. From there, Eubanks got back-to-back dunks and Durant hit a midrange jumper. A Keita Bates-Diop 3 and another Durant middy capped off a Suns 12-1 run to close the quarter. It also included a forced turnover by Eubanks across a there-and-a-half minutes that was easily his best spurt of the season.
Eubanks deserves credit for not showing any reaction whatsoever. Well, until he channeled it on the court.
“Being in those moments has taught me you got to play angry, you got to play aggressive but you can’t go over the top,” Eubanks said.
“It’s an emotional game. And to not get caught up in it and put your energy in the right spot, put your focus in the spot (and) whatever is best for the team,” Devin Booker said.
The Suns were practically doing handstands on their surfboard while riding the tidal wave created off that. Durant rested for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter before going on the aforementioned tear, scoring on three straight possessions for his own 7-0 run to put Phoenix in the lead with 6:56 to go.
If Drummond had reacted rationally to a logical basketball play by Eubanks, the game is very likely over. Instead, he jolted not only the Suns but the majority of the fans in attendance. Durant said after the game he understands where Drummond was coming from with his response.
More critical moments would come, like Vogel’s challenge on a Grayson Allen foul for a DeRozan and-one that was reversed into a DeRozan offensive foul that was a five-point swing.
Durant’s go-ahead 3 covered earlier was thanks to an offensive rebound by none other than Eubanks.
KD TRIPLE FOR THE LEAD WITH 29 SECONDS LEFT ‼️
— NBA (@NBA) January 23, 2024
Durant missed his first three shots in the second half before going 12-for-16 the rest of the way. The final line was 16-of-32 for 43 points with six rebounds, eight assists and one turnover.
Chicago put forth a great defensive effort to keep him, Bradley Beal and Booker in check before the Durant bonanza began. Booker (6-for-11) scored 16 points and Beal (7-of-17) had 18.
Eubanks ended up with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes. The Suns really need him to start putting together some better play and they’ll be hoping this was the start of it, much like for the team as a whole two weeks ago.
“Drew’s minutes tonight were so incredible,” Durant said. “Loved what he did. He just turned the game for us on both ends.”
Bulls guard Coby White was outstanding. His 26 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and two steals on 14 shots had him as the man of the hour for most of the evening. He’s turned a corner the last two months and is a nice success story for Chicago.
The Suns are now 11-3 in their last 14 games, winners of six straight. They now go on the road for 14 days of travel covering seven games. The timing is ideal.
“That was important for us to finish this off before we go on this long road trip,” Durant said. “This is an important trip for us where we get to bond as a team but also showcase on the road in the tough environments what we’re made of. … I love — 25-18, man. It was just a week or so ago it felt like we were one game, two games over .500. We trending in the right direction.”