Kevin Durant scored 23 points on 66.7% shooting (10-of-15) in his debut with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, helping his new team snap the Charlotte Hornets‘ five-game winning streak with a wire-to-wire 105-91 road victory.
Durant, acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets at the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 9, showed no lingering effects from a sprained right MCL that had previously kept him out of action for more than seven weeks. The 34-year-old veteran added six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 27 minutes. He only turned the ball over twice.
After the game, Durant shared that he felt a sense of comfort.
“I feel like I fit in pretty well,” Durant said. “Everybody out there was trying to make me as comfortable as possible.”
On Thursday’s “Undisputed,” Skip Bayless gave his first impression of the new-look Suns, saying that he believes Durant fit in rather seamlessly with his new club.
“After one game against Charlotte, I’m going to move [the Suns] to the front of the line in the Western Conference,” Bayless said. “All of a sudden, Kevin Durant walks in the door … [and] it looks like he was playing back-to-back as a 22-year-old. The jumper is rust-proof. I don’t know how he does it. … This is the team to beat this year.”
On the other side, Shannon Sharpe wasn’t ready to crown the Suns as NBA champions just yet, although he too thought that Durant’s debut was impressive and worthwhile.
“We saw the debut of Kevin Durant, who looks absolutely unbelievable, like we thought he would, like we knew he would [be] considering he’s a guy that doesn’t need to dominate the basketball in order to be extremely efficient,” Sharpe said. “He came in, and he looked like Kevin Durant. But you want me to sit here and say that after one game that this is the NBA champ? They beat the Hornets without their best player. I’m supposed to deduce that from that? I can’t.
“I’m a firm believer that two things can be true. Kevin Durant looked unbelievable. Devin Booker looked unbelievable. Deandre Ayton was dominant. They played the Hornets without LaMelo Ball. … Kevin Durant is gonna fit in with anyone because he’s not ball dominant. … Where wouldn’t Kevin Durant fit in at? I’m not willing to jump to the conclusion that you’re trying to get me to go to.”
With Wednesday’s win, Phoenix (34-29) remain in fourth place in the Western Conference standings behind Denver (44-19), Memphis (38-23) and Sacramento (36-25).
In his debut, Durant made two 3s, a flurry of mid-range jumpers and provided a defensive boost, blocking Hornets rookie center Mark Williams twice in the opening five minutes. Durant scored 12 points in the first half as Phoenix opened a 57-41 lead. Later, he hit a 17-footer off a ball fake, drawing a foul to set up a three-point play before knocking down three more mid-range jumpers to push the lead to 12 and finish with nine points in the fourth quarter.
The Suns have 19 games remaining in their regular season and are just 1.5 games ahead of fifth-place Golden State.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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