Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns made another statement in a dominant 125-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. Durant had 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the win and was really starting to build a solid connection with Australian Jock Landale, who impressed off the bench.
Landale had nine points, six rebounds and a team-high plus-10 off the bench but it was his connection with Durant in particular that had Suns reporters talking. “I love the fact Jock is getting rewarded for that hustle we’ve seen all year,” Suns reporter Greg Esposito said on the ‘PHNX Suns Podcast’.
“He talked about how he tried to help get guys feeling better when they’re down on themselves and being their hype guy. I like that KD is being his hype guy. KD gets hammered for leadership. Those little things are leadership, going up to Jock, dapping him up and saying, ‘You’ve got this’, encouraging him and building that chemistry with the back-up center.”
As the Suns push closer to the playoffs, coach Monty Williams will have to make a call on whether to keep Landale or Bismack Biyombo as the team’s back-up big man. Gerald Bourguet though said what Landale is starting to produce recently is proof of just how valuable he could be in that back-up role.
So far a lot of KD’s mid-range pull-ups have come off a Jock Landale screen,” he said.
“I don’t know what it is that is causing them to form this chemistry so quick but on a couple of rolls, KD is throwing him the bounce pass before Jock is even in the space. He just trusts he is going to be there. Hopefully it is something they can build on because as we’ve talked about, KD makes those all-bench line-ups a lot more playable.
“We’ve talked about Jock or Bis for the playoffs. If this is the Jock we’re getting, who can be productive and provide energy and hit the glass and set good screens, Jock is a really good piece to have as part of your playoff rotation.”
Brooklyn – struggling mightily since trading away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – broke a four-game skid with their first signature win of their post-superstar era.
And they did it by storming back from a huge hole for a 115-105 victory over Boston before a stunned sellout crowd of 19,156 at TD Garden.
Trailing by 28 in the second quarter, the Nets (34-28) used a 51-19 blitz that spanned intermission and flipped the game. It was also a template of what they hope to look like going forward, led by rising Mikal Bridges and a young core.
The 28-point rally by the Nets matches the largest comeback victory in franchise history, previously done on Feb 16, 2022 at the Knicks and March 19 2019 at Sacramento.
In a Feb. 1 visit to TD Garden, Brooklyn had been blitzed 139-96 by the Celtics. Irving had talked wistfully of his time in Boston, vowed to find a way to beat them, and then demanded a trade two days later. That precipitated Durant’s departure, and the breakup of their supposed superteam.
“I try to keep it real simple with our guys and not complicate it,” said Jacque Vaughn. “The goal is every single night we’re trying to win the basketball game. That’s the goal (every) night and then we’ll handle whatever happens next.
“I haven’t addressed where we are in the standings with our guys, what’s a week from now, I really don’t want them even looking that far ahead. For us, our gameplan is dedicated to (Boston) and trying to give what we have.”
In their return to the scene, they gave their first hint of a promising future. They’d lost six of seven since Bridges and Cam Johnson arrived. But the former poured in a game-high 38 points and ten rebounds – shaking of a minor tweak to take over and look every bit the part of a building block.
They trailed 13-3 right out of the gate, and it was 35-13 after a Derrick White layup with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
Brooklyn’s deficit swelled to 51-23 on a Jaylen Brown layup – yes, it was a procession to the rim – with 7:23 remaining in the half. But they picked up the defensive energy, got out and run with tempo and pace.
Getting either transition buckets or dangerous early offence, the Nets mounted a 51-19 blitz that spanned the half.
Giddey finished the game with 18 points after shooting 8-for-17 from the field, although the 20-year-old could not get any of his 3-point attempts to drop.
But it was still a productive performance from Giddey, who turned the ball over just once while managing six rebounds, 13 assists, one steal and a block in the win.