CHICAGO – Kevin Durant is calling Sunday’s Suns-Mavericks showdown on national television “another game,” but he understands the high interest.
“I understand the entertainment aspect of what we do and a lot of people on the outside got this game circled on their calendar, but both teams, just regularly scheduled programming,” Durant said. “Getting back to work and seeing how you can get better as a unit.”
People probably started putting their Sharpies to use when Brooklyn traded Kyrie Irving to Dallas and Durant to Phoenix right before the Feb. 9 trade deadline to officially signal the end of disappointing era for the Nets – and game-changing jolt for the Mavs and Suns.
The two teams now will meet for the first time with Irving and Durant on their new squads.
“We’ve played against each other before,” Durant said. “We’ve competed against each other before, but it’s all about us. I’m sure they feel the same way. Just about putting your best foot forward and going out there and hoop regardless.”
Game time is set for 11 a.m. on ABC at American Airlines Center in Dallas
“It should be fun,” Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul said. “Should be an exciting game. They played very well in their last game. We know they’ve got a lot of firepower. I think for us, just keep preaching on the defensive end. We see what we can be offensively, but we’ve just got to make sure we keep building defensively.”
The Suns (35-29) are coming off a 125-104 win at Chicago Friday in which Devin Booker scored a game-high 35 points, Josh Okogie went for 25 and Durant added 20 in his second game with Phoenix.
Now they’ll conclude their four-game road trip Sunday against the Mavs, who eliminated them from last year’s playoffs in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
“It’s another day to play basketball,” Okogie said. “I’m most grateful to step out on that court. I know a lot of people are looking forward to that game, but my job doesn’t change. My job is to go out there, be aggressive, play defense and try to impact winning.”
Dallas has taken its last two games against Phoenix this season. A win Sunday would give the Mavs the season series and the head-to-head tie-breaker advantage in the standings. The Mavs are just two games behind the Suns, who are fourth in the West.
“I’m just excited for every opportunity to play, man,” Booker said. “It’s a good time. It’s a beautiful job to match your talents up against the best in the world. We get to do it every other night. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Dallas won its last game in historic fashion, 133-126, Thursday over Philadelphia. Irving and Luka Doncic became the first Mavs teammates to ever score at least 40 points in the same game.
Irving went for 42 while Doncic dropped 40.
“Luka was ready for the party,” Irving said after the game. “I was ready for the party tonight. It was one of those games where we had some special performances. I’m just grateful that the work translated because it could have gone either way.”
Now Irving and Durant will be on the court together for the first time since Jan. 8 when Durant suffered the right MCL sprain at Miami.
“It’s just not my concern,” Suns coach Monty Williams said after Friday night’s game in Chicago. “My focus is always, right now, let’s get on the plane. I’m sure we’ve got to de-ice if there’s snow out there. That’s where my head is. All that other stuff, to me, I’m just really focused on what’s important and for me, it’s like our team and how we can get better. The well being of our organization and the people within the walls of our place. All that other stuff, I don’t even think about it. It’s just not my concern.”
Like Durant, Williams knows the narratives that are already in place going into Sunday’s game, but in closing said, “I just like to keep it boring and right now, I’m just wanting to get to the airplane and get out of (Chicago).”
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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