Sports

Ayton, Suns one win away from conference final

After two lackluster games from Bahamian DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns, a two-game losing streak was snapped on Tuesday as they easily took care of the Dallas Mavericks. Now, they are just one win away from advancing to what would be their second straight trip to the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Western Conference Finals. They blew out the Mavericks, 110-80, on Tuesday night, to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

The Suns have a chance to close out the series tonight in Game Six at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. That game tips off at 9:30 p.m. and it will be televised on ESPN. That arena has not been good for the Suns as they are still trying to figure out how to win there this postseason, having lost games three and four there.

Ayton touched 20 points for the second time in the series after combining for 30 points in the previous two games. He poured in 25 points in Game One. He chose his shot selection wisely in Game Five, and went 9-for-13 from the field, shooting 69.2 percent. That was his best shooting performance of the series. He was also able to grab nine rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor, and added two assists in the contest.

He credited his team’s defense with the win.

“Defense, that’s what got us going,” Ayton said. “We were running when we got stops, closing out possessions and, today, I felt like we were on the offensive boards a lot. Our guards were getting in there, getting some tap-outs. Bismack Biyombo got his hands on a few, and all that stuff generated so much energy and momentum plays.”

It was a tale of two halves in this matchup as the Suns put on a defensive masterpiece in the second half. They held the Mavericks to just 11-for-31 shooting from the field, equivalent to 35.5 percent. The Mavericks only made two of their 16 attempts from deep and turned the ball over 14 times in that half. Over the two final periods, the Mavericks combined for just 34 points after scoring 46 points in the first two quarters. The Suns outscored them 61-34 in the second half.

On the offensive side, the Suns shot a blistering 51.1 percent from the field in the second half. They finished with eight made three-point shots and had eight steals and 16 assists on 23 made field goal attempts.

This came after a closely contested first half in which the Suns led 49-46 heading into the intermission. The Suns’ first lead of the game was 3-2, but after the Mavs went ahead, the Suns didn’t lead again until they went up 44-42 late in the second quarter. The Mavericks took the lead again before Cam Johnson hit a shot from deep with under two minutes left in the second quarter to give the Suns a 47-45 lead. They never trailed again.

The Bahamian came alive in the second half as he and guard Devin Booker tied for 12 points each in that half. Ayton missed just one of his seven second-half field goal attempts as he played a major role in the Suns’ dominance. He scored eight points in the third which was part of a dominating 33-14 third quarter edge for the Suns. The Suns opened the third quarter on a 19-4 scoring run to go up 68-50. During that run, Ayton and Booker accounted for 17 of their 19 points.

In Game Five, the Mavericks shot 8-for-32 from deep – a far cry from their 20-for-44 performance from deep in Game Four.

In this Western Conference semifinal series, Ayton is averaging 16.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. He is shooting 57.5 percent from the field this series and has not shot below 50 percent in any game this postseason. The big man is shooting 75 percent from the free-throw line which is a tick above his regular season average.

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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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