Kevin Durant has never been at his best.
But after a long delay, it was a welcome sight for Phoenix Suns fans who saw his debut Wednesday in a 107-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Durant was originally scheduled to hit his home debut on March 8 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, four games after his first game in a Suns uniform. But an ankle injury sustained in the pre-match warm-up has pushed him back three weeks, until Wednesday.
It didn’t get off to a great start. Durant went scoreless in the first quarter and didn’t make his first field goal until a pass from the wing over Timberwolves forward Jalen McDaniels with 5:23 left in the second. He missed his first six attempts from the ground.
As Durant struggled, the Timberwolves led 51-48 at halftime. But Devin Booker and Chris Paul carried the offensive brunt as the Suns rallied from a 10-point deficit to open an 81-74 lead to start the fourth. Durant scored 10 points on 3 of 13 through three quarters.
The Timberwolves bounced back to tie the score, 84-84. Durant’s shooting problems did not dissuade him from shooting him when called upon. He hit a 3-pointer with 9:19 remaining to break the tie and give the Suns an 87-84 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Decisive win in West standings
The Timberwolves kept things close by the stretch, but the Suns pulled away with a decisive win. They went into Wednesday at 40-35 with a poor win over the deciding 4 seed in the West, a last place guarantee of home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They were tied at a tiebreaker over the fifth-place Los Angeles Clippers and 1.5 games over the Timberwolves team they were playing.
But they pulled off the win despite a halftime night from Durant, who finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists while shooting 5-of-18 from the field. Booker led the Phoenix effort with 29 points and five assists while Paul added 19 points and six assists. The win gave the Suns a semi-game shutout over the Clippers for the No. 4 seed while pushing the Golden State Warriors 1.5 games and the Timberwolves 2.5 games up in the standings.
Phoenix now has six games left in the regular season to incorporate one of the game’s great offensive players historically after acquiring Durant from the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline. You’ll do it in a hotly contested Western Conference playoff race.
But if Durant stays healthy — along with Booker, Paul, and DeAndre Ayton — Phoenix will enter the postseason as shortlisted favorites to win the championship.
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