Kevin Durant had “no clue” how Suns pulled off 22-point comeback

Brendan Mau
11 Min Read




© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns had their own fans on the verge of giving up on the team with their poor effort against the Sacramento Kings, as they found themselves down 22 with 8:10 left.

Then, everything changed to help Phoenix (22-18) win its third-straight game and eighth of its 11. The Suns outscored Sacramento (23-17) 30-6 for the rest of the night led by Kevin Durant’s 15 fourth quarter points to pull off a 119-117 victory.

“I have no clue (how we pulled this off),” said Durant, who finished with 27 points overall. “I usually know how a game is flowing, but I felt like this was a blur. I felt like I looked up, we was down six, I look up again, it’s a tie game. Everything happened so fast, I guess we all were in the zone and just locked in.”

The irony in all of this is just how bad the Suns were in fourth quarters entering tonight. Their net rating of -16.7 was the lowest in NBA.com’s database dating back to 1996-97. They were last in points (24.3), three-point percentage (29.5%), rebounds (9.5), assists (4.9) and plus/minus (-3.7).

“It’s still crazy that we ended up finishing that game the way we did,” Durant said. “We’ve been the worst fourth quarter team in what feels like, the history of the game, and tonight, we come back with this. Crazy how life works.”

In the end, the Suns outscored a playoff team in the Kings 35-21 in the fourth quarter. This comeback ended up being very historic.

Durant, now in his 16th season in the NBA, explained, the best he could, how the Suns comeback happened.

“It just happened so fast,” Durant said. “It was stop after stop and run out after run out. We was able to get deflections, blocks, and not take the ball out the rim. We got easy points on the other end. They did a good job of pressuring us on the defensive side of the ball throughout the whole game. We were playing a set defense all night, so we was able to get some stops, get out and run and just put more pressure on them. As the lead was dwindling, their defense was a little looser, they turned the ball over a little bit more.

“When they up 15 to 20, everybody can play free and play perfect in that scenario. So we just wanted to put some pressure on him and see what would happen. Coach kept telling us that, ‘This the modern NBA, you can get back into the game with threes and stops.’ And that’s what happened.”

In the end, the Suns ended up connecting on 7-of-11 (63.6%) of their threes in the quarter. These seven threes tied their high for three-point makes in a single quarter this season.

The Suns’ Late Lineup Change

Phoenix shifted to a lineup of Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon, Grayson Allen and Durant with 5:11 left down 113-96. From this point, this five-man lineup filled with shooters outscored Sacramento 23-4.

“(There’s) a lot of talk about how many games that the Big 3 have played together, but that number is even less with all five of these guys because a lot of times the Big 3 was in there, either Grayson or Eric was out,” coach Frank Vogel said. “So, we talked a lot about it in the preseason. I remember back in Palm Springs game, we were ready to go with it: ‘Let’s look at what five three point shooters looks like with KD at center. I think Brad got hurt and Book ended up not playing that game, and we didn’t see those five guys healthy for a long time. It’s not something that you know, I think is going to be a steady diet for us. But it’s always a move that we can make and a lineup we can go to when we need it.”

Durant excelled at center and guarding a three-time all-star in Domantas Sabonis in the closing stretch.

“I was just trying to take on the challenge,” Durant said. “He’s an all-star level player, and I know it’s gonna have to take multiple efforts just to stop them. He’s a physical dude, so I just tried to play physical with him, make his catches tough, push out his catches. He likes to just stand at the three-point line and survey and get triple doubles. So I tried to make him turn his back a little bit and pressure him and put my hands in the passing lanes and just disrupt him just a tiny bit.”

Allen, who tied the franchise record of nine threes for the second time in 11 games, credited Durant for his versatility in being able to switch defensively even off of Sabonis. KD finished with two blocks in the fourth quarter.

“Defensively we have to be a little bit more active if they have a big who’s a post-up threat,” Allen said of the Suns’ small lineup. “A lot of times Kev(in) does a really good job of guarding fives in the post. He’s able to push their catch out and use his length to disrupt them. (With) Sabonis, we were switching everything, so we had to be ready to collapse down on guards or front him in the post to not let him get a catch. We were switching Kev out and Kev’s guarding De’Aaron Fox at the top of the key (or) Malik Monk, and he did a great job of keeping them in front, forcing them into a tough shot. I think his versatility defensively makes that small lineup extremely tough to attack.”

Durant spoke extensively on how he knew he can be a lockdown defender for the Suns.

“I offered myself up this summer when we were having conversations about how we wanted to play,” Durant said. “I told coach (Vogel), I told (general manager) James Jones, (CEO) Josh Bartelstein like, ‘My job is to be a lockdown defender.’ Obviously I’m not gonna be perfect every night, but to go out there and trust that I can go out there make life tough for the other opposing players, that’s a part of my job description. I’m long, athletic, I can move, I’m experienced. Why should I not be held accountable to play top-line defense against anybody in the league. I’m not saying I’m stopping everybody, but I think I can make life tougher for any player in the league.

“It’s some great players out here, but I feel like I can just play hard and use my length and my attributes to make life tough. And I want those assignments, so the coaching staff has been trusting me even more. I know I’m getting older, and I think that’s probably why we didn’t see this a little earlier in the season. I started showing improvement, and if I prove to the coaching staff that I can do it, they’ll trust me more and more if I get more opportunities like that.”

Durant knows he has to be great at every attribute of his game to fulfill his “purpose.”

“I mean, my call and my purpose of being a human being is to be the greatest basketball player I could be,” Durant said. “That’s the reason why I’m alive at this point, so I got to lock into every aspect of the game and become great at it, and I’m still working.”

As for his overall feel on this game, Durant shared his perspective.

“It’s always about the process,” Durant said. “For me, the end result is definitely cool, but I care more about how we go about things. Last game, I didn’t like how we went about things, but we still won the game. Tonight, it was one of those games where you definitely hate how you play early on, but you still don’t give up and was able to have some bounces fall our way to win the game. So it’s a lesson in every game, but winning in this league is always fun. I’d rather learn from the win then learn from us losing, so we take some good things from this game and get better from it.”

Suns Stage Incredible Comeback, Defeat Kings 119-117

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau




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2024-01-17 05:55:39 , Burn City Sports

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