Big night for Hield, Ayton in the NBA

Bahamians Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton are continuing to have progressive seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) – Hield as one of the better shooters in the league for the Sacramento Kings, and Ayton as the man in the middle for the Phoenix Suns.

In fact, Hield is showing just how lethal he could be. He had the most accurate night from three-point range in his career, with at least 10 attempts, on Saturday night, connecting on nine out of 10 for a 90 percent clip from downtown, helping the Kings take down the visiting San Antonio Spurs, 122-102. Hield finished with a game-high 31 points in 32 minutes of play off the bench.

Hield has seen a slight decrease in minutes since coming off the bench, but he has done more in less time and the Kings have benefited. Hield has averaged 23.13 points per game since being relegated to the primary man off the bench, and the Kings have a 6-2 win-loss record over that span. Overall, they are 21-31 and are in the 12th spot in the Western Conference of the NBA – five full games out of the final playoff spot in the west.

Hield had his gun stuck on automatic on Saturday, particularly late in the game. He hit five treys and scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth.

Hield is also now the fastest to 800 three-pointers in NBA history, surpassing former league MVP Stephen Curry. Curry needed 305 games to reach 800 three-pointers, and Hield did it in 296 games, making him the only player in NBA history to hit that mark in less than 300 games – a perfect tune-up for his second-straight showing in the three-point contest during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

“Thank God for the

opportunity, man,” Hield told reporters in Sacramento afterwards. “Where I came from, you never paint a picture like this that I would be the fastest to get there, but I’ve been blessed. God has blessed me so tremendously. I can’t thank Him [enough] and I just got to stay humble and keep working, and onto the next game for sure.”

With his nine three-pointers against the Spurs at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, on Saturday, Hield now has 802 career three-pointers. He is third in the NBA in made three-pointers this season with 200, averaging a career-best 3.8 per game. Hield is on pace to surpass the franchise record of 278 he had a year ago.

In total, he shot 11-for-17 from the field on Saturday, and added six rebounds and five assists to go along with his game-high 31 points. Harrison Barnes had 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists; and Nemanja Bjelica and Kent Bazemore contributed 15 apiece. Dejounte Murray paced the Spurs with 17 points. Bryn Forbes contributed 16 and DeMar DeRozan added 14 before being ejected after picking up consecutive technicals.

Before the Kings’ recent hot streak, they had lost six straight and had slipped to 14th in the west. Only the Golden State Warriors were worst in the west. However, Hield and the Kings have turned it around.

For the season, Hield is averaging 20.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game – almost identical to the 20.7, 5.0 and 2.5 numbers he put up a year ago. Percentage-wise, his numbers are down a bit as he is averaging just 43.1 percent from the field and a career-worst 38.6 percent from downtown. Hield will compete in the NBA’s three-point competition for the second year in a row. Last year, he finished third. This year’s NBA’s All-Star Weekend will be held in Chicago, Illinois, from February 14-16.

The Kings will play six of their next seven games on the road. They will play the east-leading Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, tonight, and will travel to Dallas, Texas, to play the Dallas Mavericks in their final game before the all-star break, on Wednesday.

As for Ayton, he had a monster performance on Saturday, but it came in a 117-108 loss at home to the Denver Nuggets. Ayton had side-high numbers of 28 points and 19 rebounds in the loss, the Suns’ fifth loss in their last six games which dropped them to a 21-32 record in the west, five and a half games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies. It was Ayton’s 15th double-double in 23 games this season.

Devin Booker had 21 points and nine assists for the Suns, and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 20 points and six rebounds. Jamal Murray paced the Nuggets with a game-high 36 points, five rebounds and five assists. Nikola Jokic had a strong all-around game with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Nuggets won their third-straight game and fifth out of sixth, and jumped into the number two spot in the west. They have a 37-16 record, and trail just the Los Angeles Lakers in the west.

Ayton is averaging 18.7 points and 12.0 rebounds per game – up from the numbers of 16.3 and 10.3 he had a year ago.

Ayton has scored 20 or more points in four of the Suns’ last five games and is blossoming into one of the top young centers in the league.

The Suns will take on the conference-leading Lakers in the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight, and will return to the Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix to host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday in their final game before the all-star break.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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