They will meet again on October 26, in each team’s second game of the regular season. But at one point during the loss, Lakers starting shooting guard Austin Reaves found himself in the unenviable position of having to guard Suns star Kevin Durant — and it did not go well.
“Anytime you have someone as talented as KD on the court, it’s cool for me to just watch in the moment,” Reaves told reporters, per a tweet from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “He hit the mid-range fadeaway on me at the end of the half and did the ‘too small.’ And we was talking during one of the timeouts, and he told [assistant coach Jordan Ott], he was like, ‘Don’t have him guard me next week.’
“I was like, ‘Bro, what am I supposed to do with that?” Reaves asked rhetorically.
Durant finished with 21 points on 57.1% shooting, including going 2-of-3 from 3-point range, adding 4 rebounds and 2 assists in just over 17 minutes.
A 13-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion among other accomplishments, Durant is also at least 5 inches taller and 34 pounds heavier than Reaves. It’s an advantage he’s used his entire career on even the best on-ball defenders.
“You can’t block it,” Reaves said. “You can’t really contest because he leans back and — natural shooting motion — he kicks his leg out a little bit. So if you really contest, it’s a foul. So it’s a problem. But, like I said, anytime you get to share the floor with someone of that caliber … you gotta appreciate those moments because both of them won’t play forever.”
Kevin Durant & LeBron James’ Head-to-Head History
Reaves also noted that it was “good” for Durant and LeBron James to be on the floor together.
Durant and James have faced off 35 times total, per Land of Basketball. Twenty-one of those have been in the regular season and 14 times in the postseason.
James has won 20 of those meetings, with their last coming during the 2018-19 season, when Durant was still a member of the Golden State Warriors. Their last postseason matchup was in the 2018 playoffs, when the Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
The two longtime rivals could share the court together on the same team again for the first time since 2012 in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. Both players along with a host of other stars have already expressed their willingness to participate. Team USA went undefeated en route to a gold medal the last time Durant and James were teammates.
Darvin Ham Wants Lakers to Improve Defense
One of the less-celebrated keys to the Lakers’ turning their season around in 2022-23 was their commitment on the defensive end of the floor. The Lakers ranked 17th in defensive rating during their 2-10 start to the season, per NBA.com. They ranked 13th the rest of the way, including ranking No. 2 during their 18-8 stretch to close the regular season.
Their defensive rating this ranks 22nd among the NBA teams to compete this preseason, leaving Ham to call for improvement once the regular season starts.
While the preseason does not directly translate to the regular season, Ham and Co. likely wanted to see more from the team this preseason. But, as they also had to navigate myriad absences, they will hope to hit the ground running in the regular season opener on October 24.