I’ve never been too swayed by the people who claim that we live in a simulation. But tonight, I started to wonder because Kevin Durant’s performance was like something out of NBA 2k. He finished with 38 points on 22 shots, with only two of those coming from free throws. He and the Phoenix Suns came out swinging and caught the Utah Jazz on their back foot with a 131-128 win.
Initially, Devin Booker and Grayson Allen did most of the work, helping Phoenix surge to a 13-4 lead. Ysus Nurkic bullied smaller defenders inside, got a couple of easy buckets, and Kevin Durant nailed a 3 to put the Suns up 19-6. Jordan Clarkson was essentially the entirety of Utah’s offense, scoring in isolation and drawing free throws, as he usually does.
Things started to get interesting after that, as the Jazz chipped away, with Kelly Olynyk scoring two straight buckets and John Collins hitting a three-pointer to pull the Jazz within 8. The crowd started to come alive when Lauri Markkanen met Devin Booker at the rim and destroyed him:
LAURI MARKKANEN ROSE UP FOR THE REJECTION— NBA (@NBA) November 18, 2023
NBA In-Season Tournament
West Group A action on ESPN pic.twitter.com/NOATIz2719
After all the dust settled, it was 41-38.
In the second quarter, the teams traded bricks, but the Suns kept playing slightly better than the Jazz and built their lead to 6. Turnovers and fouls by the Jazz led to a 10-point advantage for Phoenix. Things started to go in the Jazz’s favor when Lauri stripped KD and Goodwin fouled him on the other end. Shortly after that, Keyonte George hit a three off an errant pass from Jordan Clarkson. Around that time, Keyonte George showed his court vision when he recorded this assist:
Gorgeous lefty laser pass off the bounce by Keyonte George pic.twitter.com/UZ09qcTKwZ— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 18, 2023
By the time the dust settled, it was halfime and the score was tied 75-all.
In the third, the Jazz traded buckets with the Suns’ reserves, hoping to make some money while Durant sat. They were able to make a push, but Nurk continued to get just about any look he wanted inside. Other guys like Nasir Little and Keita Bates-Diop got some tough buckets, but then Lauri started to heat up, giving Utah a 2-point lead with 8:27 left. It was still Jordan Clarkson’s play that allowed the Jazz to compete as they did, even though he was playing his brand of “hero ball.”
The fourth was more of the same. The teams traded bricks, and THT recorded one of the best blocks of the season so far:
THT WITH THE MASSIVE REJECTION— NBA (@NBA) November 18, 2023
NBA In-Season Tournament
West Group A action on ESPN pic.twitter.com/LDhkWKdNtu
The wheels fell off about halfway through the quarter. Simone Fontecchio bricked two three-point shots, Collins missed one, and Lauri got fouled with 7:21 remaining and cut the deficit to 7 once he hit his free throws.
Kevin Durant hit some more shots, tried and failed to posterize John Collins, and the Jazz were down 3 with under a minute to go. The Jazz had their chances, but KD effectively ended the game when he absolutely buried a shot from distance with Agbaji in his face.
It was certainly KD who was the difference tonight, which is an understatement:
Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that sometimes the other guys are good to. KD is a special player, “bus driver” or not.
Next up, the Jazz host Phoenix again on Sunday, where they will continue to look to increase their standings in he in-season tournament.