Frustration is slowly beginning to boil for the Phoenix Suns. The team that won seven consecutive games a couple of weeks back is finding itself with its feet in the quicksand. They are 2-6 in their last 8 games and having a hard time closing out opponents. Their defense? Non-existent. Their offense? Stagnant. Their players? Starting to point some fingers.
Kevin Durant was cooking in the first half of the Suns’ 139-122 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night. Granted, he started slow, hitting one of his first five shots in the first quarter and missing two free throws. But shooters shoot, and in the second quarter, KD began to sizzle. He shot 5-of-7 in the second.
He ripped off 11 consecutive points which included three consecutive three-point hits.
By the half, Durant had a team-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
In the second half, however, the Durant wasn’t a featured part of the offense. Devin Booker went 5-of-15 while KD watched with his 4-of-9. The majority of his shots were in typical Suns fashion: off of isolation-based sets.
Durant ended the night with 29 points.
On the other side of the court, Jalen Brunson was playing out of his mind. Possession after possession, the 6’2” guard eviscerated a confused Suns defense. Attacking the cylinder off of screens, hitting three-point shots as defenders sagged off; Jalen Brunson dropped 560 points on the Suns. At the Footprint Center. On Shawn Marion Night.
Kevin Durant took notice of how the Knicks were focused on getting Brunson the ball while he was feeling it.
In his post-game presser, when asked about Brunson’s night, Durant responded, “They all support him. They put in sets for him, they run plays for him. When he gets hot they continue to get him the ball.”
Kevin Durant was very upset in his postgame press conference. #Suns haven’t gotten him the ball. Four second-half shots cannot happen for the best scorer on the team and maybe the best ever.— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) December 16, 2023
See his response to Jalen Brunson question: https://t.co/XMyoNcW7uY pic.twitter.com/VNRrL7ZqlM
Maybe we’re reading too much into it, but it felt like Durant was being somewhat passive-aggressive with his comments. His frustration with what has occurred thus far this year is valid if that is what his intent was with his comments. The Suns, who are more lost on the defensive side of the ball than Kirk Lazarus following Tugg Speedman through the Vietnamese jungle, are unbelievably stagnant on offense as well, especially in the fourth quarter.
Tip of the hat to Bright Side reader and commentator FLSunrise, who put this gem in the comments of last night’s recap:
The Vogel 4th quarter playbook:
1) pass the ball to Book. Everyone else clear out and watch.
2) pass the ball to Durant. Everyone else clear out and watch
3) pass the ball to league minimum role player. Watch him brick wide open 3.
So effing true.
Durant is feeling that. You can see it on the court. Plays like the one below, in which the Suns have gone done by 12 points and are running in transition, are befuddling. The best shot on this possession is KD, by Grayson Allen whips it around to Nassir Little. You know, the guy who is shooting 34.1% from deep this season?
Much akin to defense, this is a foundational issue. It’s a coaching issue. The team needs to be hyper-focused on getting the ball to Durant but doing so in creative ways that allow him to get off clean shots. It shouldn’t be, “Let’s pass the ball to KD and watch him”. Which is what we see plenty of.
Hustle. Enegery. Attitude. Effort. These are the words that describe where the Suns are falling short thus far this season. It’s occurring on both ends of the floor and opposing teams are taking advantage of it.
The Friday night loss to the New York Knicks may be a seminal moment for the team. It may mark the low point in the season and it may be the game we look back on and say, “That’s when Phoenix pivoted and the season turned around”. With the Wizards and Blazers on the schedule, it’s time to get right. Or who knows what will happen.