Kevin Durant put up gaudy numbers in the Phoenix Suns’ 121-114 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night.
But it was not a typical, efficient game for Durant.
The new Sun dropped 39 points, which is the most he has recorded in 16 games with the team. But he shot an underwhelming 12-of-31 from the field, which followed a 1-of-8 start.
Durant looked frustrated, but he did not quit. He got to the free-throw line 16 times and made 14 of those shots. He was aggressive and did not let the game get away from him.
“I wasn’t getting some good looks to fall, so I just tried to put points on the board regardless of anything,” Durant said. “Just tried to help the team win.”
It could have been easy for Durant to fold. After he missed a fadeaway shot in the first quarter, he turned to a referee and slapped his wrist, complaining about a foul.
Durant is expected to deliver the Suns to perhaps their first-ever championship. He is the missing piece, and he is still trying to prove he can win without Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
Durant showed he is an all-time player in Game 3. He got to the basket and scored. He found his mid-range shot late. And he proved he can contribute heavily for the Suns, who desperately need to now win Game 4 against the Nuggets on Sunday.
“That’s all it is in the playoffs, just playing as hard as you can,” Durant said. “Just trying to win every possession.”
Durant and the Suns won when it counted Friday night. Phoenix lost a 15-point first-half lead and trailed at one point in the third quarter. The Suns could have fallen when their backs were against the wall.
Instead, they kept pushing. Durant hit a 3-pointer that regave Phoenix an 81-79 lead with 4:51 left in the third quarter. A few plays later, he flushed a one-handed dunk that put the Suns crowd into a frenzy.
Durant is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, so the pressure is not a concern for him. But even for an all-time player, there is an adjustment process to a new team.
Durant said he is close to where he wants to be with his comfort level with the Suns after he was traded to the team in February. He said he rushed some shots and was “thinking too much” but is feeling better with the team.
“I enjoy playing heavy minutes (he had 43 Friday),” Durant said. “I’m not figuring it out, I know I just got to make shots, to be honest. Like, I missed some ones. I’m rushing some shots. But I’m thinking too much out there, and I think that’s all on me more so than trying to get comfortable with the team.
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