In his debut game for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, Kevin Durant demonstrated his potential for forming a formidable partnership with Devin Booker. The duo contributed to the Suns’ 105-91 victories over the Charlotte Hornets, snapping their opponents’ five-game winning streak.
Despite being sidelined since January 8th with a right MCL sprain he incurred while playing for the Brooklyn Nets, Durant scored 23 points in just 27 minutes. His jump shots appeared effortless and free of rust.
Durant expressed satisfaction with his performance, saying he felt he fit in well with his new team. He credited his teammates for their efforts to make him comfortable and expressed optimism about his future performances with the Suns.
The synergy between Durant and Booker was the highlight of the game.
With Booker putting in an excellent all-around performance of 37 points, six rebounds and seven assists, the duo formed a scoring partnership that justified the acquisition of Durant.
Booker was awed by Durant’s performance, calling it surreal and effortless. Defenders tried to contest or fight over screens, but Durant seemed unbothered by their efforts.
The Suns’ strategy with Booker and Durant became apparent when the two players were separated.
Kevin Durant and Devin Booker shine in Suns’ win over Hornets
Kevin Durant’s seamless integration with Devin Booker impressed him in his debut as a Phoenix Sun. His trademark midrange jumpers helped stretch the team’s lead while playing alongside bench players, ending with a 10-of-15 shooting score.
Those combinations helped the Suns maintain their lead, and Durant finished the game with a team-best +13 plus/minus.
While Durant played under a minute restriction, Booker went to work with 15 of 26 shots and assistance from Chris Paul, who had 11 assists, leading to a stress-free win for the team.
Coach Monty Williams seems to plan to increase Durant’s minutes alongside Booker once his minute restriction lifts, unlocking the team’s full potential.
Williams was impressed with Durant’s ability to get to his spot and make a good shot, saying, “the team fed off of him just being himself tonight.”
Despite the win, the game highlighted concerns about the Suns’ scoring potential beyond their top players, as only Deandre Ayton scored in double digits alongside Durant and Booker.
Chris Paul, who has been struggling with his shooting this season, had another poor shooting night, going 1-of-8, while Josh Okogie, who kept his starting spot after the Durant trade, only scored four points.
The Suns displayed a potential issue with getting to the foul line, as three players specialize in midrange shots. This led to the Hornets drawing 13 more free throws, despite missing star player LaMelo Ball due to injury.
Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 26 points for Charlotte but struggled with 9-of-24 shooting, as the Suns limited the Hornets to 36% shooting.
Despite some concerns, the rollout of Durant was a success, thanks to a well-planned approach that included extra practice and conditioning time and a match against a weaker team. Even so, Durant himself admitted feeling nervous about his return.
Durant felt pressured to constantly prove himself to his new teammates and coaches despite his previous accomplishments in the league. “New environment, new situation, new teammates, I mean, I always feel I gotta prove myself to my teammates and my coaches every single day no matter what I’ve done in the league,” he said. “So I feel like there’s pressure to be who I am daily.”
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