PHOENIX – Kevin Durant did not have the hot hand for the Phoenix Suns Monday night.
Durant shot 2-of-12 from 3-point range in their 97-87 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was Durant’s lowest 3-point percentage on a minimum of 10 attempts in his 12-year playoff career, per Stathead.
Durant, listed with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, is usually able to get his shot up over anyone. He did not find the net Monday, and it may have cost the Suns a chance to even the series.
Durant and the Thunder overcame an 0-2 deficit in the 2012 playoffs. On that experience:
“One possession at a time, you can’t get everything back at once.
“You get taught that first day of training camp as a pro, ‘Next man mentality,’ not get too high, too low.” pic.twitter.com/J9xRnWMA1i
— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) May 4, 2023
The Suns can’t look back, and neither can Durant. Phoenix faces an 0-2 series deficit against the Nuggets ahead of Game 3 at Footprint Center Friday night. The Suns need a win or they will face a nearly insurmountable 3-0 series hole.
Durant remained optimistic following the Suns’ Thursday practice. He told reporters he relied on his work to get him back in a rhythm, which he said comes down to a mental aspect.
“I just stick to the same routine,” Durant said. “A lot of times, I’m playing a mental game. Usually when I miss shots or starting to shoot the ball, it’s just an approach thing. I’m approaching the game where, the spots on the floor where I need to be aggressive. So it’s all about surveying the game and seeing where I fit.”
Durant is recognized by coach Monty Williams and Suns teammates as the hardest worker they’ve been around. He is often seen on the far right court of the Suns’ Verizon 5G Performance after practice, getting up shots after most players have left the court.
Kevin Durant getting up shots #Suns pic.twitter.com/v3nPRMoT7L
— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) March 28, 2023
Durant has kept an even-keeled manner since he was traded to Phoenix in February. He said in one of his press conferences he is no longer focused on legacy. His goal is to help the Suns win basketball games.
Phoenix needs a victory in Game 3 to put pressure on Denver in this series. Williams did not want to say if he sensed Durant would have a bounce-back game on Friday, but praised his work ethic.
“I know that confidence comes from work,” Williams said of his players. “And I see these guys every day. I see their intentions, I see the work. We’ve always had a group that is a bunch of sore losers.
“He’s at the highest of the highest at that list (in terms of work ethic). I don’t want to anticipate or talk about what I sense, I’ve just seen him directly and indirectly for years.”
Durant has hardly had bad performances in his playoff career. He is a two-time champion and NBA Finals MVP, and rallied the Oklahoma City Thunder from an 0-2 deficit to win the 2012 Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Durant offered his take on what the Suns need to do to accomplish the same feat against the Nuggets.
“One possession at a time, you can’t get everything back at once,” Durant said. “So just having that focus and that togetherness on every possession, that’ll lead to something solid. So we just got to protect literally one possession at a time.
“Regardless of the score, you got to go and play hard on both ends of the floor, play together. That’s the mindset you always got to have.”
The Suns will need to take care of business at Footprint Center to prove they are still championship contenders. Phoenix will already be down one of its best players, point guard Chris Paul (left groin strain).
Durant and the Suns will have to step up without him.
“We’ll have to do it as a group,” Durant said.
That’s true. Just as obvious is that Durant needs to shoot the ball much better for Phoenix to compete with Denver in Game 3.
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