After the game, Suns star Kevin Durant talked about the adjustment he had to make due to the Bulls’ playing stifling defense on him down the stretch. Durant scored four points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
He scored all of them at the free throw line, going 0-for-5 from the floor.
“Just been playing the Bulls, being in the Eastern Conference for the last three years, I kind of got a good idea of how Billy likes to guard me,” Durant said after the game via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “So I just try to make the right reads. I turned the ball over a few times. But, I’m gonna turn the ball over when the whole team guarding me.”
Durant and Donovan also spent one season as player and coach, respectively, with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant finished with nine assists, offsetting his six turnovers. He had just two total assists in the fourth quarter and overtime periods. But his last proved to be the most critical.
The four-time scoring champ, Durant, found center Jusuf Nurkic – who had 20 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals – who proceeded to dive to the basket, scoring and putting 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 took some shots that I passed up,” Durant said. “But I feel like for the most part we generated good looks … and we made them when we needed to.”
Kevin Durant Praises Alex Caruso
That final assist and make erased what was a go-ahead three-pointer from Bulls guard Alex Caruso. Caruso finished with 19 points, four rebounds, three steals, two assists, two blocks, and connected on 4-of-5 triples.
Durant was effusive with praise for the 2022-23 All-Defense First Teamer.
“A hard worker that’s going to do all that he can for his teammates,” Durant said. “When you’re a great teammate and you play hard, that makes up for a lot of mistakes. Tonight he was able to get his hands on the basketball, he was able to knock down threes. That takes him to another level as a player when he can knock down the three-ball like he did tonight, create off the dribble like he did tonight.”
Caruso has attempted at least five threes 15 times as a Bull. The Bulls are 8-7 in those games. He has connected on at least four threes in one game just this once.
If he can find a way to repeat this, however, it could take himself and the team to another level.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Durant said. “I don’t even want to call him a role player. But just a guy that you can plug with any lineup and he’s going to make the right reads, the right plays on the defensive and offensive side. And the Bulls are lucky to have him.”
Billy Donovan: ‘Great to See’ Alex Caruso’s Performance
“He was phenomenal,” Donovan said via the team. “I don’t love playing him the amount of minutes I did, like I think I’ve told you guys on a consistent basis. But once he got into the game, it kind of changed the flow of the game quite honestly you know with what he did. It’s great to see him doing what he’s doing offensively.”
Caruso is averaging 7.8 points per game, his high as a Bull, with a career-best 3.9 rebounds.
He is also knocking down 44% of his 2.8 threes, both of which are the second-highest marks of his career.
“I think he probably deserves a lot of credit in this early part of the season,” Donovan said. “Not only has he been great defensively and his plus-minus is off the charts, but he’s giving us a really good boost from behind the line you know making some threes when he’s got him.”