Devin Booker gleefully stole the spotlight during Kevin Durant’s celebrated debut with the Phoenix Suns.
Booker aims for an encore on Friday when the Suns continue their road trip against the Chicago Bulls.
Booker collected 37 points, seven assists and six rebounds to fuel Phoenix to a 105-91 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The three-time All-Star made 15 of 26 shots from the floor — including three 3-pointers — and Deandre Ayton added 16 points and 16 rebounds to send the Suns to their 13th win in 18 games.
“This is one of those moments that doesn’t really feel real,” Booker said. “It’s fun, I’ll tell you that. You could feel the energy. You could feel the confidence throughout the team. That’s what the great ones do. (Durant) might not be the loudest person in the locker room, but his work speaks for itself. It’s definitely contagious from top to bottom.”
Durant finished with 23 points in his first game since being acquired from the Brooklyn Nets last month. The 2013-14 NBA Most Valuable Player and 13-time All-Star made 10 of 15 shots from the floor and showed no sign of being limited in his first contest since sustaining a right MCL sprain on Jan. 8.
“I feel like I fit in pretty well,” Durant said. “I’ve just got to keep grinding, man, and this jersey on me will look normal as games go on. I’m glad I got to get back out there on the floor today.”
Durant was on a minutes restriction making his return from injury, and he conceivably could sit out Friday’s contest should coach Monty Williams elect to err on the side of caution. The Suns wrap up their four-game trek on Sunday in Dallas, which would serve as a reunion for Durant with former Nets teammate Kyrie Irving.
Phoenix had its way with the Bulls in a 132-113 victory Nov. 30. Booker erupted for 51 points in the first three quarters before sitting out the fourth, while Ayton finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds.
Zach LaVine, who scored 21 points in that game, broke out for 41 in Chicago’s 117-115 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. The two-time All-Star made 14 of 20 shots from the floor — including 6 of 9 from 3-point range — and all seven free-throw attempts to finish two points shy of his season-high total.
LaVine drained a 3-pointer to push the Bulls’ lead to 100-79 late in the third quarter. Chicago, however, saw its advantage nearly go by the boards before benefitting from the Pistons trying to call a timeout they didn’t have in the waning moments of the fourth.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan expressed concern for his club despite seeing it win for the third time in four contests following a season-high six-game skid.
“You see this team in the first 24 minutes of the game that’s playing unbelievable, beautiful basketball,” Donovan said. “Then you see a team looking lethargic, uninspired. It’s amazing to me, to be quite honest.
“I have a lot of hope and optimism with this group because you see the best of these guys. … We’ve got to eventually get that corrected where we just keep our foot on the gas.”
–Field Level Media