Five straight for Ayton, Suns

Surging Suns take down the Heat; Hield, Kings fall to the Nets

Bahamian professional basketball player DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns started at the bottom of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference Standings out of the teams in the NBA restart, but now they are an actual contender for the eighth seed after picking up their fifth straight win on Saturday.

The Suns scored a 119-112 victory over the Miami Heat at the ESPN World Wide Sports Complex at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Meanwhile the other Bahamian in the NBA, Chavano “Buddy” Hield, and the Sacramento Kings, were not so fortunate as they fell to the Brooklyn Nets 119-106 on Friday. They played the Houston Rockets last night but the result of that game was unavailable up to press time.

The Suns came into the bubble as a long shot to make the playoffs. Now, they are very much in contention. They have climbed to the 10th spot in the Western Conference Standings. They are a half game behind the ninth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and one and a half games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

Their current five-game winning streak is their longest since 2014 where they won six games in a row. They are the only undefeated team in the bubble.

Ayton had a slow start offensively but he picked it up, finishing with a double-double on Saturday. He scored 18 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds. Ayton played in just over 36 minutes, finishing 7-for-15 from the field, shooting 46.7 percent. He had two assists.

Ayton was instrumental for his team in the fourth quarter, particularly down the stretch. With 37.5 seconds remaining in the game and his team up 113-109, he stepped to the free throw line and hit both free throws to put them up 115-109. He finished 4-for-5 from the free throw line in game.

In that final period, Ayton was productive in just under nine minutes, scoring eight points. He went 3-for-5 from the field and pulled down five rebounds including two offensive rebounds to help his team seal their fifth straight victory.

Prior to the fourth quarter, Ayton struggled to get going offensively as Heat center Bam Adebayo played stiff defense on him in the first three quarters.

At the end of the third quarter, the Suns held a slim 88-86 lead over their opponent. The Heat managed to tie the game at 90 but the Suns quickly went ahead again, and this time never looked back.

The team stats were evenly matched for the most part but the Suns dominated the glass with a 54-41 advantage that included a 12-3 differential on the offensive boards.

Ayton’s teammate guard Devin Booker led the way for them, scoring a game-high 35 points. Duncan Robinson led the scoring for the Heat with 25 points.

Hield continued to struggle in the bubble, but he did manage to score 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field including 3-for-10 from three-point territory in the loss. He played a little over 20 minutes.

Most of Hield’s production came in the fourth quarter when he scored 10 of his 17 points. He went 4-for-10 from the field and made two three-pointers on six attempts in that quarter.

Hield first checked into the game with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter and scored his first two points when he went 2-for-2 from the free throw line to put his team up 23-20 with 1:03 remaining in that quarter.

The Grand Bahamian has played uncharacteristically in the restart. He is averaging 11.8 points and 20.4 minutes per contest, significantly below his season average of 19.2 points in 30 minutes per contest.

His reserve role and rotation minutes by Head Coach Luke Walton has not helped him to get into a shooting rhythm in the past five games. He was a huge part of the Kings’ success earlier this season, but has struggled lately.

The Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 27 points. Leading the way for the Nets was Caris LeVert with 22 points.

Hield and the Kings’ only win of the restart came on Thursday night when they took down the New Orleans Pelicans, 140-125. In their other games, they have lost to the Dallas Mavericks, the Orlando Magic and the San Antonio Spurs.

After the Rockets, Hield and the Kings will finish off regular season play in the restart when they play the Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before taking down the Heat, the Suns got wins over the Washington Wizards, the Mavericks, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Indiana Pacers. The Suns will be back in action today when they play a tough Oklahoma City Thunder team. After the Thunder, they will play the Philadelphia 76ers and the Mavericks again, to close out their experience in the regular season portion of the restart, which will conclude this week.

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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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