It’s difficult to assess Patrick Williams’ season-best performance in Wednesday’s stirring victory over the red-hot Brooklyn Nets without acknowledging Kevin Durant.
This isn’t some comparison angle or anything like that. Durant is one of the game’s all-time greatest scorers, while Williams posted merely the fifth 20-point game of his young career.
But as Williams scored 12 of his season-high 22 points without missing a shot in the first quarter, Durant poured in 15 of his eventual 44 points.
Rather than hang his head or succumb to in-game adversity as Durant’s primary defender, Williams showed resolve. He didn’t shrink from the moment.
“The greatest thing I ever saw with Kevin besides all the preparation and work that he does is he is not afraid of the moment. He leans into the moment. He embraces that. There are certain guys that don’t want any part of that, quite honestly. He thrives in that,” Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
“There is absolutely zero fear in him at all. He will go for it. And that’s the thing I really respect about him more than anything else in my short amount of time with him.”
Indeed, Donovan, having coached Durant for one season in Oklahoma City, owns a unique perspective into not only his sublime talent but his tenacity.
And that’s what Donovan is seeking more consistently from his physically gifted, third-year forward.
“He’s gotta get that resolve. Now it’s our job to provide the resources to help him do that. But it’s got to be driven by him,” Donovan said. “And I do think that’s something at times that has gotten in the way of his performances, quite honestly. Whether it’s the game moving a little bit too fast and he doesn’t make a read or makes a mistake and then gets caught dwelling on what just happened. And next thing you know, he gets into what I think everybody would look at as he’s not being aggressive and he’s just kind of out there.
“If you’re really driven to be great, you look at the things that are potentially holding you back and you find ways to address it.”
Williams admittedly took Monday’s overtime loss in Cleveland hard, internalizing his missed blockout on Donovan Mitchell. Whether Mitchell committed a lane violation or not, Williams said it’s on him to secure that rebound, which would’ve prevented overtime and secured a victory.
Instead, Williams missed a wide-open corner 3 on the first possession of that overtime session and watched Mitchell drop 71 points on the Bulls in the Cavaliers’ improbable victory.
So for him to flip the script on Wednesday night has significance.
“That last game left a bad taste in my mouth, not only from the 71 but from the way we lost the lead, me personally holding onto plays and letting it mess with my mental a little bit,” Williams said. “For me, it was just kind of fix it.”
That’s what Williams did. Beyond his season-high points, he attempted a season-high seven free throws and also grabbed seven rebounds. Throw in two steals and it’s the kind of complete, two-way performance that the Bulls need to see more consistently from their former fourth overall pick.
That it came against Durant as he kept the offensive pressure on made it all the more impressive.
“Regardless of who it was against, it’s always a confidence booster. Everybody wants to play well and when you do, you have a good feeling,” Williams said. “But this game doesn’t impact next game. Next game we gotta show it again, prove it again.”
That’s some good mental fortitude.