For the second straight preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Bahamian big man DeAndre Ayton played limited minutes on the floor and was out of the game by midway through the third. That’s how dominant the Phoenix Suns were again.
They took care of the Lakers easily, 123-94, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday.
Ayton played a little over 22 minutes on the floor, and shot 4-for-8 from the field. He finished with 11 points and added nine rebounds and an assist. Ayton is averaging 11 points and 7.67 rebounds in a little over 18 minutes per game in three preseason games.
Last week, they defeated the Lakers in Phoenix, 117-105, after leading by as much as 31 points in that game.
Despite an ongoing contract dispute with his team, Ayton is proving that he will be ready for the start of the regular season – his fourth in the league. He has blossomed into one of the top centers in the league, leading the Suns to within two games of the NBA title a year ago.
Ayton was spectacular a year ago, elevating himself by 37 spots to number 37 on Sports Illustrated‘s Top 100 list – featuring the best players in the NBA. Ayton was listed at number 74 the year before.
The 23-year-old 6’11” starting center of the Sun averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during the 2020-2021 regular season, helping the Sun end an 11-year playoff drought. In the playoffs, Ayton stepped his game up, averaging 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
Sports Illustrated (SI) mentioned his all-around evolution, particularly on the defensive side, as a tool that earned him appropriate acclaim during the Suns’ NBA Finals run.
“By sacrificing post touches and using his sheer size to influence the run of play, Ayton became more than simply the most physically gifted seven-footer in the sport. He’s one of the game’s best rebounders, a much-improved screener, and too mobile to scheme off the floor in the playoffs: in essence, why he was the No. 1 pick,” stated SI writer Jeremy Woo.
Ayton was the number one overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Suns, choosing to come out of college after his freshman year at Arizona.
As for the game on Sunday, Ayton opened up his scoring in the opening quarter, shooting 2-for-4 from the field including knocking down his only three-point attempt. He is now 1-for-3 from distance in the preseason. Ayton finished with five points and four rebounds in that opening 12 minutes, helping the Suns race out to a 28-18 lead after the first quarter. Ayton didn’t take a shot and didn’t resister a point in the second quarter, but collected three rebounds. Still, the Suns led 51-44 at the half.
A 2-for-4 shooting performance in the third for six points for Ayton helped the Suns increase the lead to double-digits, and it never shrunk to below 10 after that. The Suns went on a killer 18-3 scoring run after Ayton came out of the game at 4:21 mark of the third quarter. By the end of the third, they were up 88-64.
The Suns outscored the Lakers 35-30 in the fourth and cruised to the easy win.
Ayton was one of six players in double figures for the Suns. Point guard Chris Paul led them in scoring with 15 points, and added five assists and three rebounds. Landry Shamet added 13 points, JaVale McGee and Jalen Smith added a dozen apiece, and Ayton chipped in with 11. Cameron Payne was the only other player in double figures for them, scoring 10.
Anthony Davis powered in 19 points, and added six assists, three rebounds and three steals to lead the Lakers who played without superstar LeBron James for the third time in four outings this preseason. Carmelo Anthony was the only other player in double figures with 17.
Ayton and the Suns will end their preseason action against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. That game will be played at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and will get underway at 5 p.m.
The Suns will open their 2021-2022 regular season a week from the ending of their preseason, hosting the Denver Nuggets at the Footprint Center on October 20. That game will be televised on ESPN.
The other two Bahamians in the NBA were in action last night but the results of their games were unavailable up to press time. Chavano “Buddy” Hield and the Sacramento Kings visited the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center Portland, Oregon, and Kai Jones and the Charlotte Hornets took on the Miami Heat at the FTX Arena in Miami, Florida.