The country’s two most high-profiled basketball players locked horns to open their seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Wednesday, and both turned in fantastic individual performances on the court.
Chavano “Buddy” Hield, in particular, was on fire to open the game, going 8-for-11 from the floor and 5-for-8 from distance. He scored 22 first-half points and finished with a game-high 28 in total to go along with five rebounds and two assists. However, Hield and the Kings were ran out of the gym in the second half as the Phoenix Suns poured it on, winning comfortably, 124-95, at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday.
The Suns outscored the Kings, 32-17, in the third quarter, and 38-19 in the fourth to record the impressive win.
Bahamian post player DeAndre Ayton started the season off with a double-double after posting a Suns’ rookie record 39 a year ago. He scored 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the floor and added 11 rebounds, starting his season off on a positive note. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is coming off a rookie season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while shooting 58.5 percent from the floor.
On Wednesday, the game was close up until the half. After trailing 59-54 at the half the Suns opened the third quarter on a 12-5 run to surge ahead and never looked back. A three-point shot from back-up point guard Jevon Carter gave the Suns a double-double digit lead, 83-73, at the 1:36 mark of the third quarter and the Kings got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Devin Booker had 22 points and 10 assists to lead the Suns, and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 21. Ayton with 18, veteran guard Ricky Rubio with 11 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and four steals, 11 from Carter and 10 from Tyler Johnson off the bench gave the Suns six players in double figures.
Behind Hield, second-year player Marvin Bagley III had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings. Harrison Barnes had 12 points and six rebounds and reserve player Cory Joseph was the only other player in double figures with 10.
It was Carter who sparked the Suns with two huge three-point shots in the third. They outscored the Kings, who took three out of four from the Suns a year ago, by 34 points in the second half en route to the comfortable win. It was an encouraging night for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs in nine seasons and finished with a dismal 19-63 win-loss record a year ago.
As if to make a statement after signing a four-year $94 million rookie-scale extension, with bonuses and incentives, on Monday, Hield came out blazing. The 26-year-old guard from Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama, finished with six three pointers in total, opening the season on a positive note after connecting for a franchise record 278 a year ago. He was fourth in three pointers made last season and had the seventh-most prolific season in three-point shooting in NBA history. No player in NBA history has converted on more three-pointers in his first three seasons (602) than Hield.
He got off to a fast start to the 2019-2020 season last night, the Kings shot just 28 percent from the field and had 18 turnovers in the second half, leading to their downfall.
Hield said afterwards: “They had the momentum, they made shots, they made plays, they played harder than us. They deserved to win.”
The game served as the debut of a couple of head coaches with new teams – Monty Williams with the Suns and Luke Walton with the Kings.
Hield and the Kings will host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, while Ayton and the Suns will travel to the “Mile High City” to play the Denver Nuggets.