Hield, Ayton turn in strong weekend performances

Bahamians Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton are continuing to make their cases for all-star game appearances, lighting up the scoreboard for their respective teams.

Both were in action twice over the weekend – Hield on Friday and Sunday, and Ayton in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday.

Hield struck for 28 points in both games for the Sacramento Kings, leading them to two big victories in the chase to make the playoffs for the first time in 12 years – the longest drought in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Kings hold an 18-15 win-loss record, good enough for seventh place in the NBA’s Western Conference standings. They defeated the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, 102-99, on Friday, and got past Hield’s former team, the New Orleans Pelicans, 122-117, last night.

On Friday, Hield scored his 28 points on 9-for-24 shooting and was 6-for-13 from distance. He added eight rebounds, one assist and one steal.

On Sunday, Hield was just as lethal, but had a better shooting night, scoring 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting from the field, including 6-for-11 from three-point land.

The third-year guard from Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama, is now averaging over 20 points for the first time in his NBA career. Hield is averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists – career high numbers.

He has scored in excess of 20 points in a career-long seven straight games – including a career-high 37 on 11-for-25 shooting last week Wednesday in a loss to the conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.

Hield is second in the league in three-point shooting among those with at least 200 attempts – 44 percent. He is 26th in the league in scoring and leads the Kings in both categories, the latter among those with at least 200 attempts.

Given his latest torrid streak, Hield is now tied for fifth in the league in three-pointers made. He has 100 for the season, and is on pace to hit 249 this year which would be a career-high for him. He hit 176 all of last year, and shot 43.1 percent from distance. Hield has hit 22 three-point shots in his last four games – his best four-game stretch of his career.

Hield is also shooting a career-high 47.9 percent from the field.

The 6’4” 25-year-old shooting guard of the Kings leads all third-year players in scoring, three-pointers made and three-point percentage among those with at least 200 attempts. He has started every game at two-guard for the Kings this season and is averaging a career-high 31.2 minutes per game.

Ayton was been impressive as well.

In back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, he reached career-high numbers in points with 26 each time. He had 26 points and 17 rebounds but fouled out in a 149-146 triple overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday and dropped in 26 points and matched a career-high with 18 rebounds in a 111-103 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. The loss to the Wizards ended the Suns’ four-game winning streak, and the loss to the Nets pushed them back to an 8-26 record on the season.

Ayton, just 20, has been on a rebounding tear, pulling down 18, 17 and 18 in his last three games – his best three-game stretch of the season on the glass. He has also scored in excess of 20 points in four straight games, and has recorded a double-double in his last five.

Ayton is averaging 16.6 points and 10.9 rebounds this season – the only rookie in the league to average a double-double this season.

Ayton is also shooting 59.9 percent from the field. He was 11-for-18 on Saturday, and then had his third-best shooting night for the season – going 13-for-16 for 81.3 percent.

Ayton is second in the league in field goal percentage among those with at least 300 attempts. He is also 13th in the league in rebounding and leads the Suns in both categories, the latter among those with at least 300 attempts.

The Bahamian big man is also third on the Suns in scoring, and is second among rookies behind Dallas’ Luka Doncic. He leads all rookies in rebounding and field goal percentage among those with at least 200 attempts.

He has managed to join elite company this season as he is just the fourth rookie in the last 36 years to score 300 or more points and pull down 200 or more rebounds in his first 20 games in the NBA, joining legends Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan, and Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin.

The 7’1”, 250-pound center is averaging 30.9 minutes per game.

Hield and the Kings will travel to Los Angeles to play the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday. They will then play a home-and-away against the Los Angeles Lakers this coming weekend.

Ayton and the Suns continue their five-game eastern road trip when they take on the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. They will then return to the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, to take on the Thunder on Friday. That game will be the beginning of a seven-game homestand for them.

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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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