THE EMPIRE OF THE SUN
UPDATE: MARCH 3, 2023 AT 9:49 PM
Friday’s Phoenix Suns 125-104 victory in Chicago over the Bulls is exactly what we can expect here over the next few weeks as the new team builds chemistry and cohesion with Kevin Durant.
End results will vary, but we will see some shine mixed with some stagnation. There was enough of the first to make up for the second Friday.
Phoenix’s starting five was +26 in 18:29 of playing time. He shot 12-for-17-for-3 overall and had 16 assists. In 19 minutes!
The only time the Suns really struggled with Durant on the ground was early in the second quarter.
Shortly after Durant rested, Chicago surged 18-1 to end the first half and put the Suns to four. Phoenix scored a season-high 40 points in the first quarter, but only 20 in the following period.
But once those starters got in, Phoenix quickly came back up seven times.
The fourth quarter opened with the Bulls continuing their defensive strategy of doubling Durant as soon as he had the opportunity to attack, and the veteran forward continued to make good play for his teammates.
It continued to produce open shots, offensive enough to keep Chicago away the rest of the night.
Durant finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block on 7-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes. The number of assists didn’t represent his game well, as he also had a handful of hockey assists, happy to trust his teammates.
One of them was Josh Okogie, who rebounded from a four-point outing on Wednesday with 25 on Friday.
He’s going to keep getting some of those open shots and he’s got to keep taking them.
Speaking of open shots, when was the last time you saw Devin Booker this open?
Suns personnel smash defensive philosophies, leaving the opposition with only bad decisions to make.
Booker once again took advantage of Durant’s presence allowing him to see a few easy ones go down. He contributed 35 points, five rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block.
Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton didn’t have a good night’s sleep, another part of the game that shows just how dangerous this team is. Paul hit a few late 3s for 11 points with 10 assists while Ayton had seven points and three rebounds on 2-of-4 shooting.
Jock Landale was terrific off the bench with nine points, six rebounds, one assist and two blocks. He’s been great doing the little things at a high level the last month, really nailing those 5 minutes of backup.
Keep an eye on his developing two-man game with Durant, who already clearly trusts Landale.
Chicago’s star guarding duo of DeMar DeRozan (31 points) and Zach LaVine (27) were involved enough to make the game semi-hectic, but the Suns 20-for-47 (42.6%) scored triples over to the Bulls’ 7. -in-23 (30.4%) was the difference. This, again, can be attributed to Durant and the way the ball got in motion when it was doubled.