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Ayton, Hield continue to prepare for NBA restart

Bahamian professional basketball player with the Phoenix Suns DeAndre Ayton appears to be spending more time on the perimeter, going 2-for-2 from three-point territory in two scrimmage games of the National Basketball Association (NBA) season restart this past weekend. His latest three-pointer came yesterday when the Suns fell to the Boston Celtics, 117-103. This came after the Suns’ starting center went 0-for-7 from three-point territory over his two-year NBA career. The first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft finished with 11 points against the Celtics.

Chavano “Buddy” Hield was in action on Saturday, but he and the Sacramento Kings were not able to come out with a win as they fell to the top team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks. The Kings lost, 131-123. Hield finished with a team-high 19 points.

Ayton played 21 minutes yesterday and finished with seven rebounds to go with the 11 points. A huge chunk of his minutes came in the first half when he played 16 of those 21 minutes.

The big man had some alley-oops, looking comfortable on the floor yesterday. In the Suns’ first scrimmage game on Thursday night, they took down the Utah Jazz, 101-88. Ayton had 13 points and eight rebounds in that game.

“I feel that we are one of the fastest-paced teams right now. We have a great pace and we’re not slowing down at all. We are starting off games pretty strong no matter how our offense looking. We are playing defense  and are very active. We are communicating differently after coming back from my suspension… Everything feels normal. It just feels great and we are a family now,” Ayton told reporters as he wore a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) hoodie.

In the first half on Sunday, Ayton scored five points and pulled down seven rebounds. He hit a three-pointer from the top-left of the perimeter with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter to put his team up 13-9 – his first bucket of the game.

At the half, the Celtics were up 63-59. Ayton finished with five of those 59 points. After an alley-oop in the third quarter with 7:24 to score his final points on the afternoon, Ayton exited the game as coach Monty Williams kept him out for the remainder of the contest. They will play their final scrimmage game against the Toronto Raptors tomorrow at 3 p.m.

Devin Booker led the way for the Suns with 17 points. Jaylen Brown finished with a game-high 21 points for the Celtics in the win.

Hield and the Kings were happy to have point guard De’Aaron Fox back on the floor despite the loss. The Grand Bahamian went 8-for-18 from the field, shooting 44.4 percent. Known as a three-point specialist, he went 3-for-10 from distance for the second scrimmage game in a row. He is looking to get into rhythm as the season officially gets underway for the Kings on Friday.

The 2020 NBA Mountain Dew Three-Point Champion played 26 minutes against the Bucks. They are still looking for their first scrimmage win, having lost to the Miami Heat on Wednesday, and the Bucks on Saturday.

It looks like Kings’ Head Coach Luke Walton will continue bring Hield off the bench. He checked into the game against the Bucks for Harry Giles III with 7:46 remaining in the first quarter. The sharp shooter’s first bucket came on a three-pointer with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter as the Kings trailed 23-19.

Hield finished the first half with 17 points, but the Bucks led comfortably, 80-60. They coasted to victory in the second half.

The Bucks’ 80 first-half points is not a good indicator for the Kings defensively as they head into the NBA season restart. They play the Los Angeles Clippers in their final scrimmage game today. Hield and the Kings restart the season on Friday against the San Antonio Spurs at 8 p.m. Ayton’s Suns will also restart their season on Friday when they take on the Washington Wizards at 4 p.m.

The Kings and the Suns were two of 22 teams chosen for the NBA restart after the regular season was stopped back on March 11 because of the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. All the teams are housed at a single-site complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, under strict COVID-19 conditions and protocols.

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