Sports

Ayton, Suns dominate to take 2-0 lead over the Nuggets

Bahamian professional player with the Phoenix Suns DeAndre Ayton notched his second straight double-double in the playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, helping his squad dismantle the Nuggets, 123-98, on Wednesday night. The Suns scored a convincing win at home at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, and now lead their National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference semifinal series two games to none.

The game was a foregone conclusion midway through the fourth. Coming down to the end of the third quarter, Ayton logged his final minutes of the game, with his team ahead by 20, 81-61. The third-year player finished the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds in just 25 minutes of action. He shot efficiently from the field as well as he went 6-for-10. Ayton was able to connect on three of his four shots from the free throw line.

Once again, the Bahamian big man showed what he could do, matched up against the league’s 2020-2021 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Nikola Jokic. Ayton did not back down from the challenge, playing Jokic aggressively all night, forcing the Nuggets’ center to make tough shots and work for rebounds. In the end, Jokic 

finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, going 9-for-17 from the field. Ayton defended him on six of those eight missed shots.

For his efforts so far for this postseason, Ayton was labeled the Suns’ MVP by his point guard Chris Paul who finished the game with 17 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers.

“Can’t ask for more from somebody like him,” Paul said. “He guards, he runs, he rebounds, he does everything. He’s literally been our MVP of the postseason so far.”

Early in the first quarter, Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams took a gamble on the Bahamian big man, leaving him on the floor after he picked up his second foul at the 7:04 mark in the first period. The gamble paid off as Ayton did not commit another foul in the quarter and for the rest of the game. Ayton let his voice be heard and Paul said he loved that about his teammate.

“I think the best part of it was D.A. (Ayton) got on our (expletive). He was mad. He was mad at us, and I loved it – rightfully so,” said Paul. “We got to protect him, we got to help him.”

Playing in front of a crowd of over 16,000 for a second straight game, the Suns went on an early 8-2 run at the 9:20 mark of the first quarter, culminated with a Devin Booker three-point shot. He led the Suns’ balanced scoring attack with 18 points.

The Suns were so dominant in the game that there was only one lead change and one tie. The Nuggets’ only lead came at the 11:46 mark of the first quarter when they went up 2-0. The Suns tied the game at two seconds later. From there, the Suns took a 5-2 lead and never looked back.

It was a tough first quarter for the Bahamian offensively as he missed four of his five shot attempts in that quarter. His first made shot came at the 4:59 mark on a five-foot hook shot. The Suns led 17-12 at that point.

As expected, the Nuggets tried to make a comeback but only came within one point. The Suns led 25-21 at the end of the first quarter.

The Suns had their first double-digit lead at the 8:32 mark of the second quarter, 35-25. After Jokic made a three-pointer with 1:53 remaining in the second quarter, Ayton and Paul had a pick-and-roll play. Ayton rolled to the rim and caught an alley-oop pass from Paul for a layup to put the Suns up 48-40 with 1:34 left in the half. The Suns went into the intermission up 52-42.

A huge 14-3 run starting from Ayton’s alley-oop layup in the second quarter to the 10:03 mark of the third quarter, put the Suns up 62-43. The 62nd point came on a Paul and Ayton alley-oop hook-up at the 10:03 mark. This time it was a thunderous slam dunk for Ayton.

The former University of Arizona Wildcats player was perfect in the third quarter, going 4-for-4 from the field. At the end of the third quarter, the Suns led 86-67.

Not feeling comfortable with their lead to start the fourth quarter, the reserves, for the most part took, helped increase the lead to 31 points. The Suns led 109-78 at the 6:06 mark.

The Suns were scorching hot from the three-point line all game, shooting a blistering 47.4 percent by going 18-for-38. They also outrebounded the Nuggets, 52-46.

Ayton and the Suns had the night off last night as the series shifts to Denver, Colorado. The pivotal game three will be played tonight at 10 o’ clock at the Ball Arena in Denver. The game will be televised live on ESPN.

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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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