The Phoenix Suns will attempt to bounce back from an unfulfilling night at the arena when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
Suns star Kevin Durant became the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history on Friday, but the ledger shows a 119-111 home loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Durant scored 30 points, hitting that mark for the seventh consecutive game. However, his historic night included an 0-for-10 shooting second half as he finished 8-for-25 overall.
Phoenix’s Jusuf Nurkic did his part with a season-high 31 points, two shy of his career best. He stepped up by shooting 13-for-22 with star guard Devin Booker (ankle) sidelined, but he wasn’t happy the club didn’t win as Durant (27,423 career points) passed Hall of Famer Moses Malone (27,409).
“Whatever I need to do to help the team be in the best position to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” Nurkic said of his stellar offensive showing. “I feel bad we couldn’t get this for KD. Being Top 10 all time is pretty good.”
Durant made all 13 of his free-throw attempts to run his streak of consecutive makes to 67.
The Suns trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter and coach Frank Vogel pointed to the first half as a major problem. Denver shot 67.4 percent in the half and led 70-63 at the break.
“We didn’t play with nearly enough toughness and attention to detail in the first half,” Vogel said. “It was one of our worst defensive halves. But you’ve got to credit the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic — that’s why he’s one of the best in the world. He can take any four teammates and create great looks for those guys. He’s really special.”
Durant sat out with a foot injury when the Suns posted a 110-89 win over the host Grizzlies on Nov. 24 in an NBA in-season tournament game.
Booker, though, was on fire, scoring a season-high 40 points on 15-of-21 shooting. His availability for the rematch will be determined sometime on Saturday.
Santi Aldama led Memphis with 21 points in the recent loss to Phoenix. Standout Desmond Bane had a season-low six points on 3-of-12 shooting. Bane missed all five of his 3-pointer attempts, marking the lone time he has failed to make at least one this season.
Bane was on his game Friday as he scored 30 points and was 4 of 6 from behind the arc in Memphis’ 108-94 road victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The solid effort gave the Grizzlies back-to-back wins for the first time all season. Memphis defeated the visiting Utah Jazz 105-91 on Wednesday.
“Let’s build off what we’ve done the last three, four days, two games and two practices,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said after the victory in Dallas. “And just understand this is something that can propel us to better days ahead. But let’s not look too far ahead.”
Memphis has struggled partly due to the absence of star point guard Ja Morant, who is serving a 25-game suspension due to detrimental conduct.
The Grizzlies received a boost Friday from Jaylen Nowell, a recent 10-day signee due to the club being short-handed. Nowell scored 19 points in 26 minutes in his fourth game with Memphis. He had four total points in his first three outings.
“We know he can score at a high level, but his ability to drive and kick and get to next actions, play pick-and-rolls is really impressive,” Jenkins said. “The biggest thing is getting him acclimated to our defensive system. I’ve actually been really impressed.”