You love to see your star player bring the heat defensively against the opposing team’s best player. Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant took matters into his own hands right from the tip Tuesday night, taking on Giannis Antetokounmpo on the defensive side of the ball. This is the position matchup between the two, but escalating it to something personal will always lead to a highly impactful night of basketball.
We saw this before the last time the Suns faced the Los Angeles Lakers, when KD wanted LeBron James all to himself to start the game, taking LeBron out of the game from the tip.
The Suns won that game running away 127-109, with LeBron only playing 24 minutes, and scoring a season-low 10 points.
This is exactly what you want to see, not hear. I love the fact that you hear very little trash talking before the game begins, then BOOM! KD has the fire in his eyes defensively. Making it a point to take the opposing star out of their game, leading to adjustments from the other team.
If this is how your star leads, it becomes infectious and you can see the other players take things up a notch.
You could see the trash talking start from the jump from KD. Giving Giannis all the body contact he could give, along with some lip, things were off to a spicy start in Phoenix Tuesday night. I am not saying this is what led to Giannis only scoring four points in the first quarter, but it sure helped. Throwing passes out of bounds and into the front row, Giannis seemed panicked. Was it KD in his head? Not sure, but it looked to have an effect.
It is hard to keep a monster like Giannis out of the game for too long, but the climb back up for him would be a tough one, including hard fouls. The tension between KD and Giannis started to build in the first, leading to contested battles at the rim, leaving you wincing that no one would get hurt.
The sheer impact of KD’s defense on Giannis, forcing him to run out of bounds on the baseline, led to a loud appreciation from the crowd entering the second half. Not as loud as a Bol Bol dribble, but almost as loud. The mission of defensive impact was not complete for KD.
The rest of the game was all about containing the monster in Giannis and making sure that 6-8 points lead that was held through the third quarter could be contained in the fourth quarter.
Great defense leads to good offense, and this is good offense!
To me, this game started and ended with KD on the defensive end. Even with Giannis ending the game with 34 points, the Suns as a team held the Bucks to 106 points, the fourth-lowest total of their season. The Bucks were missing Damian Lillard and Kris Middleton (who left with an ankle injury after a KD closeout as he shot a three-pointer), but these are the games that have you believing this Suns team is an actual contender.
Is this something to look forward to in the playoffs? With Bradley Beal and Devin Booker taking a lot of the pressure off of KD on the offensive side of the ball, the energy used defensively can be valued as fuel to start and finish a game.