PHOENIX — Kevin Durant‘s a 13-time All-Star, a two-time NBA champion, a four-time league leader in scoring and has done just about everything else a player can do in the game of basketball.
But even he can get a little nervous.
Devin Booker scored 29 points, Durant had 16 points and eight rebounds in his home debut and the Phoenix Suns won their third straight game, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-100.
After a huge ovation from the sellout crowd – which waited more than a month to see him play a game in Phoenix after his trade from Brooklyn – Durant missed his first six shots and finished 5 of 18 from the field, though he did hit a couple important 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
“It was hard for me to get sleep today, it was hard for me to stop thinking about the game,” Durant said. “Sometimes you can want it too bad and you come out, start rushing and being uncharacteristic.”
“I’m glad I’m back, I’m glad I’m playing again and being one of the guys. Just building from here.”
Even with the nerves, the Suns are 4-0 with Durant in the lineup. The Timberwolves had a four-game winning streak snapped.
The Suns and Wolves are in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race, fighting to stay in the top six so they don’t fall to the play-in tournament. Every game is crucial at this point – just three wins separated the Nos. 4-11 spots coming into Wednesday.
The Suns took an 81-74 lead into the fourth quarter and held on in the final minutes.
Durant changed his shoes at halftime, hoping for some better mojo.
“I thought he battled on both ends,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I think his cardio has got to get back to the level he wants it. Once he gets that, we’ll see the Kevin that we all know.”
Chris Paul added 19 points and six assists for Phoenix.
Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 31 points. Karl-Anthony Towns added 25.
Durant played for the first time since March 5. He was warming up for his first home game with the Suns three days later when he sprained his left ankle during pregame preparation. The injury cost him 10 games.
The timing of that ankle injury – less than an hour before his expected home debut – felt like a bad omen for the Suns, who added the 34-year-old Durant in a blockbuster trade-deadline deal that sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and draft picks back to the Nets.
But Phoenix managed to tread water in the standings without its newest star. His second attempt at the home debut went much better, even if his shooting touch was off.
The Timberwolves took a 51-48 halftime lead. Towns scored 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Booker led the Suns with 12.
The Timberwolves – and particularly center Rudy Gobert – were irritated about a 27-12 advantage in free throw attempts for the Suns.
“It’s really not fair every night,” Gobert said. “I have been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it is hard for me to think that they are not trying to help (the Suns) win tonight.
“It is hard for me to think that they didn’t try to have the Warriors win the other night or the Sacramento Kings the other night. It is just so obvious as a basketball player. I have been in this league for so long and it is disrespectful.”