Kevin Durant, again from damage, scores 23 in successful Suns debut

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was right here throughout All-Star Weekend 2019 that Kevin Durant solidified his choice to accomplice with Kyrie Irving when each turned free brokers the next summer time. Four years later, a brand new partnership was unveiled in the identical enviornment, this one with hope for a greater consequence.

Playing for the primary time as a member of the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday evening, Durant confirmed early indicators of the doubtless devastating one-two punch he can type with Devin Booker in a 105-91 win to snap the Charlotte Hornets’ five-game win streak.

Durant scored 23 factors in 27 minutes, his jumper wanting rust-free after being out since Jan. 8 whereas recovering from a proper MCL sprain he suffered when he was nonetheless with the Brooklyn Nets.

“I feel like I fit in pretty well. Everybody out there was trying to make me as comfortable as possible,” Durant mentioned. “I just got to keep grinding, man, and this jersey on me will look normal as games go on.”

It was Durant’s playmaking mixture with Booker that left the most important impression.

When they have been on the ground collectively definitely, as Booker had a terrific all-around recreation with 37 factors, six rebounds and 7 assists to create the form of wing-scoring duo that the Durant acquisition was all about.

“This is one of those moments that doesn’t really feel real,” Booker mentioned. “I mean, it’s just every time he shoots the ball, it’s just so effortless. You can see defenders trying their hardest to contest or fight over a screen, and he just looks unbothered, unfazed.”

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But it was when Booker and Durant have been separated the place the Suns’ recreation plan with them got here into focus.

In each halves, Durant performed stretches with 4 bench gamers, and each instances the rating went from near double-digit Phoenix leads as he drilled a collection of his trademark midrange jumpers. He ended the sport having shot 10-of-15.

Those stretches, primarily, made it a stress-free win because the Suns by no means trailed and Durant ended up with a plus-13 plus/minus, second greatest on the staff.

When Durant, who performed 4 six-minute shifts after which the ultimate three minutes as a part of a minutes restriction, was sitting, it was Booker who was going to work — making 15 of 26 pictures as he labored off Chris Paul, who had 11 assists, per traditional.

Once the minutes restriction lifts and Durant’s taking part in time alongside Booker’s will increase — or so coach Monty Williams’ plan appears to be — the Suns’ full potential could be unlocked.

“It’s just pretty cool to be able to give the guy the ball and he could get to his spot and get a really good shot,” Williams mentioned. “I thought the team fed off of him just being himself tonight.”

Wednesday evening’s recreation wasn’t blemish-free, although. Concerns concerning the top-heavy potential of the Suns’ scoring already confirmed up as just one different participant, Deandre Ayton, was in double figures with 16 factors.

Paul, who’s having a foul taking pictures season, had one other poor evening, going 1-of-8. Josh Okogie, who saved his beginning spot after averaging 18.5 factors in a boosted function following the Durant commerce, scored 4.

The Suns additionally hinted that attending to the foul line may be a difficulty at instances with three gamers who concentrate on midrange pictures. The Hornets, lacking star LaMelo Ball after he suffered a damaged ankle earlier this week, drew 13 extra free throws.

Kelly Oubre Jr. led Charlotte with 26 factors however was simply 9-of-24 taking pictures because the Suns held the Hornets to 36.4% from the sphere.

Nonetheless, the Durant rollout was a hit after a calculated plan that allowed for bonus apply and conditioning time and a recreation in opposition to one of many league’s weaker groups.

Even with that, although, Durant admitted he was nervous.

“New environment, new situation, new teammates, I mean I always feel I got to prove myself to my teammates and my coaches every single day no matter what I’ve done in the league,” Durant mentioned. “So I feel like there’s pressure to be who I am every day.”