Still waiting on the debut of Kevin Durant, the Phoenix Suns begins a four-game road trip with a Sunday matinee against the NBA’s hottest team, the host Milwaukee Bucks.
Durant, the 10-time All-NBA honoree acquired in a February 9 trade, has yet to play his first game with Phoenix. The Athletic reported on Thursday that Durant is expected to make his return to action and his debut with the Suns on Wednesday, the second leg of the road swing.
Durant sustained an MCL sprain that has sidelined him since Jan. 8. Before the injury, the wing was averaging 29.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game with the Brooklyn Nets.
While Phoenix awaits Durant’s first appearance, it has been rolling since February 3 with wins in six of the last eight games. The Suns were winners in their return from the All-Star break on Friday, posting a 124-115 defeat of Oklahoma City.
Devin Booker led the way with 25 points, his second-best performance since missing 24 of 25 games and only playing 4:20 in the one appearance over that stretch. In Friday’s win, Booker passed Steve Nash for the most made 3-pointers in the regular season in franchise history with 1,052.
Phoenix also is riding into its final 21 games with added depth thanks in part to the return of reserve guard Cameron Payne. Payne rejoined the rotation on Friday after missing 30 of the previous 32 and scored 14 points.
“I had fun man, trying to knock the rust off,” Payne told Bally Sports Arizona in his postgame interview. “I had a few bad turnovers, but I’m just blessed and grateful that I’m back on the court.”
The Suns will have their newly restored lineup tested on Sunday against a Milwaukee team with six players averaging between 10.6 and 31.3 points per game.
Despite leading scorer and rebounder Giannis Antetokounmpo playing just 6:28 due to a knee injury, Milwaukee rolled off its 13th consecutive victory and 15th in the last 16 games on Friday.
The Bucks blasted Miami, 128-99, behind 24 points and seven assists with no turnovers from Jrue Holiday. Holiday has been outstanding of late with Friday marking his 10th outing scoring 20 points or more since Jan. 11. He posted 40 points on Feb. 14 in a win over reigning Eastern Conference champion Boston.
“Jrue sets the tone for us on both ends,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said in Friday’s postgame press conference. “Taking the (Jimmy) Butler matchup (defensively) right out of the gate, then setting us up offensively. That’s what we need from him.”
Sixth man Bobby Portis, who joins Antetokounmpo in averaging a season-long double-double, posted his 30th of the campaign with 18 points and 11 rebounds against the Heat.
Antetokounmpo’s status is day-to-day ahead of Sunday’s matchup. However, Khris Middleton’s return to the rotation has bolstered Milwaukee’s options. His 12 points on Friday marked seven straight games scoring in double figures while coming off the bench.