Getty Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns.
The Chicago Bulls lost to the Phoenix Suns, losing in overtime 116-115 on November 8th and were 3-5 on the season.
After the game, Suns star Kevin Durant talked about the adjustments he had to make because the Bulls played him stifling defense down the stretch. Durant scored a combined four points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
He made them all at the free throw line and was 0-for-5 from the floor.
“I just played against the Bulls and have been in the Eastern Conference for the last three years. “That’s when I kind of got a good idea of how much Billy likes to protect me,” Durant said after the game, via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “So I just try to do the right reads. I turned the ball over a few times. But I will turn the ball over if the whole team is protecting me.”
When Kevin Durant was asked what he said to Jusuf Nurkic after a bad pass led to Alex Caruso’s 3, he put the Bulls ahead by 4 in OT.
“He said DeMar was coming over to try to get the steal. I said just pass him quick, if he comes over to double I’ll get away.” #Sonnen pic.twitter.com/m7fjRG0X0A
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) November 9, 2023
Durant and Donovan also spent one season as a player and coach, respectively, with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant finished the game with nine assists, offsetting his six turnovers. He had just two total assists in the fourth quarter and overtime. But his last proved to be the most critical.
Four-time scoring champion Durant found center Jusuf Nurkic — who had 20 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and two steals — who dove to the basket, scored and put the Suns ahead for good.
Durant still had 25 points on 7-for-16 shooting (2-for-5 3P), seven rebounds and two steals.
“Sometimes I feel like I could have taken some shots that I missed,” Durant said. “But I feel like for the most part we created a good look…and we did it when we needed it.”
Kevin Durant praises Alex Caruso
That final assist and make canceled out Bulls guard Alex Caruso’s three-point push. Caruso finished the game with 19 points, four rebounds, three steals, two assists, two blocks and made 4 of 5 triples.
Durant was effusive in his praise for the 2022-23 All-Defense First Teamer.
“A hard worker who will do whatever he can for his teammates,” Durant said. “If you’re a great teammate and play hard, you can make up for a lot of mistakes. Tonight he managed to get his hands on the basketball and shoot threes. That takes him to another level as a player when he can shoot the three-pointer like he did tonight and get off the dribble like he did tonight.”
Caruso attempted at least five three-pointers 15 times as a Bull. The Bulls are 8-7 in those games. Only this time did he hit at least four three-pointers in a game.
However, if he can find a way to repeat that, it could take him and the team to new levels.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Durant said. “I don’t even want to call him a role player. But just a guy who can be combined with any lineup and who makes the right interpretations and plays on both defense and offense. And the Bulls are lucky to have him.”
Billy Donovan: “Great to see” Alex Caruso’s performance
“He was phenomenal,” Donovan said of the team. “I don’t love playing so many minutes against him, as I think I’ve told you time and time again. But once he got in the game, it kind of changed the flow of the game, honestly, you know what he did. It’s great to see him do what he does offensively.”
Caruso is averaging 7.8 points per game, his career best, with a career-best 3.9 rebounds.
He also hit 44% of his 2.8 three-pointers, which was the second-highest mark of his career.
“I think he probably deserves a lot of credit at this early part of the season,” Donovan said. “Not only has he been great on defense and his plus-minus numbers are second to none, but he also gives us a really good boost behind the line, you know, making a few threes when he gets it.”
Josh Buckhalter covers the NBA for Heavy.com, with a focus on the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He lives in Villa Park, Illinois. Follow Josh on Twitter and Instagram: @JoshGBuck More about Josh Buckhalter