Brian WindhorstESPN Senior Writer3 Minute Read
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was in Charlotte over All-Star Weekend in 2019 that Kevin Durant solidified his resolution to companion with Kyrie Irving when each turned free brokers the next summer season. Four years later, a brand new partnership was unveiled in the identical enviornment, this one with hope for a greater final result.
Playing for the primary time as a member of the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday evening, Durant confirmed early indicators of the potential for the devastating 1-2 punch he can kind with Devin Booker in a 105-91 win to snap the Charlotte Hornets’ five-game win streak.
“I’ve performed in virtually 1,000 basketball video games, however at present I used to be nervous,” Durant instructed Bally Sports Arizona after the sport.
Durant scored 23 factors in simply 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. But it was the playmaking mixture with Booker that left the most important impression.
Booker had a terrific all-around recreation with 37 factors, six rebounds and 7 assists to create the kind of wing-scoring duo that the Durant acquisition was all about. But it was once they 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 occasions 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, basically, made it a stress-free win because the Suns by no means trailed.
When Durant, who performed 4 six-minute shifts after which the ultimate three minutes as a part of a minute 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 typical.
“To get to the place we have to go, we have now to be environment friendly basketball gamers,” Durant stated of his pairing with Booker, whom he described as a “pure basketball participant” and “one among a form.”
Once the minute restriction lifts and Durant’s minutes alongside Booker can enhance — or so coach Monty Williams’ plan appears to be — the group’s full potential may be unlocked.
It wasn’t blemish-free, although. Concerns concerning the top-heavy potential of the Suns’ scoring already confirmed up as one solely different participant, Deandre Ayton, was in double figures with 16 factors.
Paul, who’s having a nasty taking pictures season, had one other poor taking pictures evening, going 1-of-8. Josh Okogie, who stored his beginning spot after averaging 18.5 factors after getting a boosted position following the Durant commerce, scored simply 4.
The Suns additionally hinted at what could be a problem attending to the foul line at occasions with three gamers specializing in midrange pictures. The Hornets, lacking star LaMelo Ball after he suffered a damaged ankle earlier this week, drew 13 extra free throws.
Nonetheless, the Durant rollout was successful after a calculated plan that allowed for bonus follow and conditioning time and a recreation in opposition to one of many league’s weaker groups.
Kelly Oubre Jr. led Charlotte with 26 factors however was simply 9-of-24 taking pictures because the Suns held the Hornets to 36% taking pictures.