Ayton relegated to the bench

Coming off the bench for the third consecutive game for the Phoenix Suns, Bahamian center DeAndre Ayton was able to score 20 points and pull down a team-high 10 rebounds in a 123-110 loss for the Suns to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. That game, played at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, was the first of a three-game road trip for the Suns with stops in New York and Boston to come.

With the loss, the Suns dropped to a 16-24 win-loss record on the season and 7-10 on the road. They are now 11th in the Western Conference of the NBA – two and a half games behind the eighth place Memphis Grizzlies.

The Hawks won just their ninth game this season in 41 outings, and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in the NBA.

The big man had a prolific night off the bench, making 10 of his 14 field goals.

Ayton checked in the game for Aaron Baynes with 7:21 remaining in the first quarter. He got to work right away when he grabbed an offensive rebound off an Elie Okobo miss but did not get the tip-in.

At the 5:45 mark in the first quarter, Ayton scored his first bucket of the game when he got a dunk on a Dario Saric assist.

The move to the bench is something new for Ayton. In an interview with Duane Rankin of AZ Central over the weekend, he said he’s adjusting.

“I’ve never been through this. It’s new,” said Ayton. “I’m just holding my head high and just working – working for the team, working to get better, working to get some wins, working to know my teammates better.”

The 21-year-old played 33 minutes against the Hawks on Tuesday night, and was second on the team in scoring.

At the end of the first quarter, the Hawks were up 28-25.

The former University of Arizona standout swatted two shots in the game. His first block came in the second quarter with 10:13 remaining when he denied a lay-up attempt by De’Andre Hunter.

The Suns tied the game at 30-30 with 9:49 to play in the second quarter when Mikal Bridges made a lay-up.

The Hawks ended the first half ahead 56-51.

They extended that lead to 63-51 in the third quarter. Hunter connected on a jump shot to cap a 9-0 scoring run that began at the end of the second quarter.

However, the Suns later went on a 16-5 scoring run to tie the game with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter.

With just under 1:20 remaining in that quarter, Ayton collected an offensive rebound and had a put-back lay-up to give his team an 83-80 lead.

The Hawks went into the fourth quarter with a slim one-point lead, 84-83. It was all Hawks in the fourth quarter as they won going away, 123-110.

The Hawks connected on 10 more three-pointers than the Suns. The Suns finished 4-of-20 from three-point territory.

This game was the Bahamian’s 10th game of the season after battling an ankle injury and a 25-game suspension for a doping violation.

He is averaging a double-double this season at 15.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per contest while shooting 54 percent from the field. The center is also averaging 1.8 blocks per game and playing 30.5 minutes per game.

The numbers are similar to what he did a season ago when he finished third in voting for the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

As for the 2018 number one draft pick being benched, Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams told reporters that they want to develop Ayton and bring him along the right way.

Next up for the Suns will be a match-up against the New York Knicks at historic Madison Square Garden in New York. That game is set for tonight, starting at 7:30 p.m.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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