Monday, June 17

NBA: Kevin Durant eager for home Suns debut vs Thunder

FILE – Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts in the second quarter during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on March 01, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images/AFP

Kevin Durant gets to hear homecourt cheers with his new employer for the first time when his Phoenix Suns host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

Durant was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 9 while he was sidelined due to a knee injury. He returned to action on March 1 and has played in three road games, but the Wednesday contest will represent his Phoenix unveiling.

“I’m glad I was able to get a couple on the road to get my feet wet because I know it’s going to be loud in there,” Durant said of his pending home debut. “I’m looking forward to our fans. I know they can’t wait to see us out on the floor.”

Durant has been superb so far for the Suns, averaging 26.7 points and shooting 69 percent (29 of 42) in three victories. The 13-time All-Star looked close to top form on Sunday when he poured in 37 points on 12-of-17 shooting in a 130-126 road win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Also quickly put to rest was chatter that Durant and star guard Devin Booker might not co-exist peacefully. Booker, the Suns’ longtime go-to scorer, averaged 36 points of 56 percent shooting (42 of 75) in Durant’s first three games.

Durant said he is adjusting after being traded in the middle of the season for the first time in his 15-year career.

Hoopla is high for the contest against one of Durant’s former clubs, but Phoenix coach Monty Williams isn’t the least bit interested in the fever-pitch excitement.

“We’ve got a game to win, man,” Williams said. “I’m not into all the dramatics and all that stuff. We’re just approaching the game the same way we always have. That stuff doesn’t even get into my thinking. We’re out to win the game. I’m sure he’ll tell you the same thing. That’s our focus right now.”

Phoenix struggled while Booker was out earlier in the season with a groin injury. However, the Suns are now scorching with 15 wins in their past 20 games and reside in fourth place in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City has won three consecutive games entering a stretch in which three straight contests and eight of 10 will be on the road.

The Thunder averaged 132 points in the three wins — the first two against the Utah Jazz and the latest a 137-128 victory over the visiting Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

“It has been a collective effort,” Thunder point guard Josh Giddey said of the three-game stretch. “You look across the board and there are multiple guys making things happen. I think when our offense is flowing that way, we have the ability as a team to put a lot of points on the board.”

Giddey recorded a career-best 17 assists against the Warriors to go with 17 points and 11 rebounds. It was his third triple-double of the season and the seventh of his career.

“He got to his spots and played with great force,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think he did a great job of getting to the lane and spraying (the ball) out. He got a lot of assists on drives, which is something he’s been working on. He did a great job.”

All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points against Golden State and has averaged 35.5 points in two contests since returning from a five-game absence. However, Gilgeous-Alexander (load management) and Jalen Williams (wrist) will not play against the Suns.

Oklahoma City is one of five teams separated by one game in the battle for the West’s final two play-in spots. The Thunder are a half-game behind the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers.

The Suns have won six of the past seven meetings, including a 124-115 home win on Feb. 24. Booker scored 25 points for Phoenix in that contest, while Isaiah Joe scored a career-high 28 for Oklahoma City.


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