The Nuggets must figure out how to stop Kevin Durant, we’re evaluating the Lakers’ offensive adjustments, and more in today’s NBA news.
The Phoenix Suns defeated the Denver Nuggets for the second time in a little over a week. Since the Nuggets were missing Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., this second victory was a little less instructive. However, it resulted in Kevin Durant scoring 59 points on 20 of 33 field goal attempts and 8 of 13 three-point attempts in the two games, raising the question of how Denver would handle him in a potential second-round playoff matchup.
How will the Denver Nuggets try to slow down Kevin Durant?
The Nuggets’ big defensive additions this offseason were Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, both of whom may be well suited for chasing around Devin Booker but neither has the length to really deal with Kevin Durant.
The Nuggets sat most of their starters for last night’s game so Peyton Watson and Jeff Green had the primary Durant assignment. Watson is a rookie who has appeared in just 21 games and didn’t break double-digit minutes until the Nuggets’ first matchup with the Suns just over a week ago. It’s possible he gets some spot minutes in the playoffs but it seems far more likely that Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green will carry the load.
Gordon was the primary Durant defender during that first matchup a week ago and, did a decent job. According to the NBA’s matchup stats, Durant scored 12 points in the 23 possessions Gordon was his primary defender, shooting 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. But several of those were static spot-up 3-pointers where Gordon was just a half-second late closing out.
On the handful of occasions where Durant scored over Gordon in isolation or in motion, it was usually the kind of elite shot-making that even strong defense can’t really take away.