It was a historic night for Bahamian and Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton as he recorded his first career 20/20 double-double when he scored 26 points and grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds in a 121-98 blowout of the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
His historic night came at a historic stadium – the Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York.
Ayton returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the last few games and showed why he should remain there when he went 10-for-15 from the field – a blistering 73.3 percent from the field.
He finished with a game-high six offensive rebounds in 35 very efficient minutes of play that included two blocks.
The first pick in the 2018 NBA Draft told reporters after the game that he credits the success to the team.
“We are only out there for one another,” Ayton said.
“Without team success, you are not going to reach your individual accolades. That is big on this team and we feed off each other.”
As a team, the Suns had 31 assists on the night and shot 51.1 percent from the field.
Ayton’s first basket came on a pick-and-roll alley-oop with guard Ricky Rubio with 10:31 remaining in the first quarter to put his team up 3-2.
He was very active as he scored six of his team’s first 13 points. At the end of the first quarter, the big man had eight points and four rebounds to assert his dominance.
However, the Knicks held the lead 32-25 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was all Suns as they outscored the Knicks 33-20. They took the lead for good with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter, when Rubio made a layup to put the Suns up 45-44. They led 58-52 at the intermission.
Rubio’s layup kicked off a 10-0 run by the Suns that left the Knicks searching for answers.
At the half, Ayton had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards to go with one block.
The second half saw the Suns dominate the Knicks when they outscored them 63-46. They led by as much as 29 points in the final quarter.
The former PAC-12 Player of the Year recipient brought the energy to the team on Thursday night by throwing down several alley-oop dunks and kept busy around the basket all night.
Suns Head Coach Monty Williams was happy with the way his team won.
“This is the team we want to be,” Williams said. “Holding a team under 100 points is really hard and 31 assists is phenomenal. It’s a really good win for us. All of them are, but that’s a big-time win because of the way we did it.”
This is Ayton’s sophomore year and he has a lot of catching up to do in terms of games played. He has missed 25 games for violating the league’s anti-drug program and when he did return to the court on December 17, he sprained his ankle. He missed a few games.
However, his production on the court did not drop much as he is averaging 16.8 points per game and 12 rebounds a game. He is swatting 1.6 shots a contest.
He has six starts in his 11 games and after Thursday night’s contest should remain in the starting lineup.
On Thursday night, he had help from Rubio who finished with a near triple-double with 25 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds along with four steals.
Ayton and the Suns have picked up some momentum as they owned three of their last four games. They now have a 17-24 win-loss record, good enough for 11th place in the Western Conference. They are also two games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
They will be tested when they face a tough Boston Celtics team in Boston at 7 p.m. tonight.