Kevin Durant is back.
Or at least, he might be. After missing ten games with a sprained ankle, The Athletic’s Shams Charania is reporting that KD will return to the Suns lineup against the visiting Timberwolves just in time for tonight’s ESPN doubleheader. For Phoenix, Durant is a sight for sore eyes. They’ve admirably weathered his absence with a 4-6 record, but with seven games remaining a homecourt advantage in the first round on the line, getting back a former MVP and two-time Finals MVP into the lineup with six contests against playoff contenders. They’re currently a game up on the Los Angeles Clippers in the loss column with Game #82 hosting Kawhi Leonard et. al. still on the schedule.
However, tonight’s game is no warmup in the valley of the sun. Minnesota has won four in a row, including both games of Karl-Anthony Towns’ much anticipated return as well. Two wins against Kings and Warriors on the road have catapulted the TWolves out of the play-in tournament and into contention for the 6th seed. With KAT and Anthony Edwards finally uniting with Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, this is finally the team that many thought would make noise in the Western Conference.
Before Minny and Phoenix tip off out west, we’ll see two teams battling it out for playoff positioning in Philadelphia. The Mavericks are currently on the outside looking in at the play-in tournament at 37-39 after two inexplicable losses to the Charlotte Hornets. Luca Doncic and Kyrie Irving are back on the court together after each has dealt with nagging injuries. However, they’re just 4-8 in games they’ve played together. For the 76ers, their dynamic duo is questionable after an 0-3 trip west of the Mississippi. James Harden is dealing with Achilles soreness, Joel Embiid missed an MVP-candidate matchup with Nikola Jokic with calf tightness, and the Sixers have virtually fallen three games in the loss column behind the Celtics.
The Mavericks visit the City of Brotherly Love as 4-point underdogs against the 76ers despite the availability of Philly’s two stars. In the desert, the red-hot Timberwolves are a surprising +5 against the Suns.
Even with all the playoff position jockeying at play, all eyes will be on the return of KD. The Suns jumped up in championship odds when their new owner, Matt Ishbia, made the deal for Durant; they're a +450 to raise a Larry O’Brien trophy with him in the fold. He's averaged 26.7/7.3/3.7 over three games for Phoenix and tonight, our friends at DraftKings have this quick single game parlay against Minnesota: if KD scores +25 points, grabs +5 rebounds, and dishes +5 assists, DK is giving you +310.
That is, of course, if KD can get through warmups tonight (wink, wink).
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