The Phoenix Suns have been on a heater as of late, entering their game against the Chicago Bulls on a five-game win streak. But the Bulls themselves have been playing well, despite being without the services of All-Star guard Zach LaVine. They entered having won 6 of their previous 8 games.
On a rainy night in downtown Phoenix, the two streaking teams met in what turned out to be a tremendous basketball game.
Kevin Durant, who had scored 40 points the night prior, went for 43 points against the Bulls, completing a comeback from 23 points down and leading the Suns to a 115-133 win. He had 17 points in the fourth quarter and, with 1.6 seconds left, hit what proved to be the game-winner for Phoenix.
KEVIN FREAKING DURANT BABY!!!! pic.twitter.com/J6RzJkwqtq— Oh no he didn't (@ohnohedidnt24) January 23, 2024
Coby White had a stellar game for Chicago, doing all he could to fill LaVine’s shoes. Scoring from inside and outside, White had 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 17 rebounds, Alex Caruso went 5-of-11 from three-point range for 15 points, and DeMar DeRozan added 21 points.
It wasn’t enough the stop the streaking Suns.
Bradley Beal had 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting and 5 assists, Devin Booker was 6-of-11 for 16 points and 5 assists, and Drew Eubanks provided a spark off of the bench with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. KD had 8 assists in the game as well, and only 1 turnover.
The win propels the Suns into the fifth seed in the Western Conference as the Dallas Mavericks, who the Suns play this Wednesday lost to the Boston Celtics tonight. Chicago drops to 21-24 on the year.
Chicago got off to an insanely hot start in the first quarter, hitting 7 of their 14 three-point attempts while holding the Suns to 1-of-7 from deep. After one quarter they were up 37-22 and it appeared that the Suns, who had defeated the Indiana Pacers a night before, didn’t have enough gas to keep up with Chicago. That, combined with the physical manner in which the Bulls like to play, made it feel like this was going to be one of those scheduled losses.
Accepting the schedule loss at this point. Zero energy— RJ (@rosiejaws) January 23, 2024
Kevin Durant, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week earlier in the day, began the game having a hard time hitting a shot. He was 2-of-6 from the field in the first quarter and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. In the second quarter, he was 2-of-7 from the field and once again 0-of-3 from three-point range, which put his totals in the first half at 4-of-13, 0-of-6 from deep, and 13 total points.
Sun trailed the Bulls by 17 at the half, 66-49.
The third quarter was much more of an even affair as Phoenix began to find their rhythm offensively, and the teams were trading blows, matching each other run for run. Every time Phoenix would get the lead down to 13, Chicago responded. They pushed their lead to as much as 23 points.
There was an interesting exchange between backup center Drew Eubanks, and Coby White in which Eubanks after slightly pushing White in the back on a rebound, got called for a technical foul. He responded with a slam dunk on the opposite end. The next possession down, he deliberately physically fouled Andre Drummond, which Drummond did not appreciate. Drummond got a technical foul for aggressively approaching Eubanks. The next possession down, Drew Eubanks slammed the ball home again.
It was the strange emotional exchange that sparked the crowd as well as the Suns.
If you had Drew Eubanks changing the tide on your Suns BINGO card tonight, I applaud thee— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 23, 2024
They would go on to outscore the Bulls 34-24 in the third and cut the lead to 7 entering the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant had 13 points of those 34 in the third and was beginning to zero in on his range.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
The fourth-quarter Suns have been a narrative that we’ve struggled to accept this entire season. They’ve been historically bad. During their recent winning streak, however, we are starting to see more organization, motivation, and accountability in the final period. This happened on Monday night against Chicago.
Phoenix was much more efficient in the fourth, shooting 59.1% from the field and, more importantly, turning the ball over a grand total of 0 times in the period. This efficiency allowed them to stay in the game and match Chicago bucket for bucket, as they too were getting their shots to fall.
The Bulls, who were shooting 42.9% from three through the first three quarters, started to miss their deep shots in Q4. They went 2-of-9 in the final period. The Suns, conversely, went 5-of-11 from downtown.
After struggling in the first half, Durant didn’t slow down and stopped shooting in the second half. He didn’t defer to his teammates. Shooters shoot. He began to cook, and in the fourth quarter, he went 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc for 17 points, including, a big three-pointer that put the Suns up with under a minute ago.
How did you get that ball? On an offensive rebound from Drew Eubanks.
KEVIN DURANT GAME-WINNER TO COMPLETE A 23-POINT COMEBACK OVER CHICAGO! DURANT & DEROZAN WENT CRAZY IN THE CLUTCH!— NBA Buzz (@OfficialNBABuzz) January 23, 2024
▪️Kevin Durant go-ahead three
▪️DeMar Derozan game-tying mid-range
▪️Kevin Durant game-winning mid-range
Back-to-back 40-PT games for KD! pic.twitter.com/JUmq2E9KcM
Frank Vogel chose to pull Jusuf Nurkic late in the game due to the engaging way that Eubanks was playing. It paid off as he muscled for that offensive rebound, and dished the ball to the perimeter, where Durant calmly sunk it.
The Bulls came back down and DeMar DeRozan hit a ten-footer floater to tie the game, which meant the Suns would have the last chance to shoot.
We all knew where it was going. And no one could stop it. Kevin Durant went left, double-clutched, and sunk a 17-foot jumper with 1.6 seconds left in the game. It served to be the deciding shot in the game. Suns win.
A seven-game road trip lies before the Suns, and it all begins on Wednesday against the Mavericks. We’ll see you then!