Suns victory over Timberwolves outweighs celebration of Durant’s home opener

Mar 29, 2023, 11:00 PM | Updated: Mar 30, 2023, 12:03 am

When it comes to home games at Footprint Center, the first will likely be the worst for Kevin Durant.

The event was a letdown. The victory was not.

The Suns forged a collective triumph on a night that began as a celebration of one, beating the Timberwolves 107-100 in a game stuffed with postseason implications. They absorbed the frustrations of their newest superstar, making sure his long-awaited debut ended up in the proper column.

“If you ask me why we won tonight, it was the defense,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said.

For the record, this was the latest home debut in NBA history for a superstar expected to help lead his team to a championship.

For context:

Mikal Bridges scored 563 points for the Nets before Durant made his home debut in Phoenix. The Cactus League came and went, conducting an entire exhibition season. The Suns played 75 regular season games before Durant’s first home game in the Valley.

The building seemed to exhale when Durant completed pregame warmups, successfully proving he is not made of glass. There seemed to be a mixture of excitement and trepidation in the air. And the strangeness of the moment was punctuated by Durant’s early struggles.

His first field goal of the game didn’t occur until the 5:22 mark of the second quarter. He missed 13 shots against the Timberwolves after missing just 13 shots in his first three games with the Suns.

At one point, his frustration was evident to Williams, who offered a quick reminder:

“Greatness don’t shake his head, feel me?” Williams said.

Durant nodded his head. And after the game, he admitted that he had a hard time sleeping before the game, consumed with the anxiety of the moment. He even changed his shoes at halftime, hoping to change the narrative.

“I can get in my own way sometimes, thinking too much,” Durant said.

Durant was clearly rusty and pressing. He hasn’t seemed comfortable with all the tsunami of unconditional love he’s received since being traded to the Suns. This was an event that Durant is surely glad to put in his rear-view mirror.

“I’m sure he did (feel frustrated),” Williams said. “He’s used to making every shot.”

This victory marks the beginning of the sprint to a championship. If things go well, this will be one of the strangest paths to a championship ever witnessed. Only two NBA champions lost 35 or more games in the regular season (1978 Washington Bullets, 44-38; 1995 Houston Rockets, 47-35). The Suns are at 35 losses and counting.

And yet they remain unbeaten with Durant (4-0).

Against the Timberwolves, the Suns were fueled by the point guard tandem of Chris Paul and Cameron Payne, who combined for 30 points and delivered the energy their team so badly needed. They were lifted by the relentless aggression of Devin Booker, who scored 29 points and shot 15 free throws, three more than Minnesota’s entire lineup.

They covered for Durant on his big night, delivering a big victory that was far more important than the big event. I’m guessing the new guy returns the favor very soon.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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