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Kevin Durant to face Suns

OKLAHOMA CITY -- After missing the past six games with a right ankle sprain, Kevin Durant will return to the starting lineup Wednesday when the Thunder host the Phoenix Suns.

"I'm feeling good. I'm just ready to play," Durant said after Wednesday's shootaround. "I really can't talk too much about it. I feel like I've been working out for five months, not really being able to play. So to get some game action will be fun."

Durant fully practiced on Monday and Tuesday, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Durant looked "lively." Durant said Wednesday he's still feeling some soreness in the ankle but is healthy enough to go.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent, but that's just how your body is 30 games into the season, the wear and tear of playing in the NBA," Durant said. "But I feel great. I feel ready to play."

Durant injured his ankle Dec. 18 against Golden State when he stepped on Marreese Speights' foot after scoring 30 points in 18 first-half minutes and appeared to be regaining some of his MVP form.

It was only Durant's ninth game back since undergoing surgery on his right foot to repair a Jones fracture that caused him to miss the first 17 games of the season.

"I didn't play as well as I wanted to [when I came back]," Durant said. "But I felt like I was starting to hit my stride and feel better. But that's a part of the game. It's the first time it's really hit me, the injury side of it. But I just had to stay strong and keep working and do things I had to do to get back on the floor. It was definitely tough not playing because I love to play. But I know it's a part of the game, and I wasn't trying to feel sorry for myself."

Brooks said Durant's minutes will be somewhere in the "mid-30s." Durant had a minutes restriction immediately after his return from surgery, but the lowered playing time is part of an organizational plan to try and reduce his minutes, as Durant has averaged more than 38 per game the past six seasons.

Durant said that because of his choppy playing time this season, he may have some issues with conditioning, especially playing against the fast-paced Suns in his first game back.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent, but that's just how your body is 30 games into the season, the wear and tear of playing in the NBA. But I feel great. I feel ready to play."

Kevin Durant, on his return after missing six games with a right ankle sprain

"Being out for a month and then playing for two weeks, then being out another two weeks, I'm up-and-down as far as my conditioning is concerned," he said. "But I feel good, and I know Coach is going to do a good job with my minutes. So I've just got to play as hard as I can while I'm out there and use those timeouts to rest."

With Durant in the lineup this season, the Thunder are 7-2, with losses only to New Orleans in his first game back and against the Warriors, where he played only a half.

When Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka have been together on the floor this season, the Thunder are outscoring opponents by 20.8 points per 100 possessions in 173 minutes.

"When we become whole again, and we make another adjustment [adding Durant back], I feel our team is as good as any team in this league," Brooks said Tuesday.

In the recent stretch Durant was out, the Thunder went 3-3 with all of the losses happening in the closing minutes. In games decided this season by two possessions, the Thunder are just 2-9. Clearly, missing one of the game's best closers has been a problem for the Thunder in crunch time.

"I'm not saying it's because of me. We didn't have our whole team any of those games," Durant said of the Thunder's late-game issues this season. "Obviously more weapons will help everybody out.

"I feel like I can cause a lot of different matchups problems when I'm out there playing the big position, or playing the 3, take pressure off Reggie [Jackson], Russ, Serge, just like they take the pressure off me when I'm out there. I think just having more and more guys that can create their own shot late in the game will help everybody."

The Thunder are 15-17 on the last day of 2014, 2½ games back of the eighth-place Suns in the West. The team has resisted any urge to invoke an added sense of urgency because of its situation, sticking to noting how many games are left in the season.

"Man, we can't look at it that way. We've got to take it a game at a time," Durant said. "That's what we said when I first came back. We were 5-13, and everybody was panicking then. We have to take it a game at a time. We can't win those games in a month unless we play these games now."