The first legitimate meeting in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game between Bahamians, with both seeing significant minutes on the floor, turned out to be a one-sided affair in favor of the visitors.
Chavano “Buddy” Hield and the Sacramento Kings continued their early-season push, turning back DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, on Tuesday.
By the end of the first quarter, the Kings were ahead by 27 points – the most lopsided opening quarter for a visiting team over the home team in the NBA in 21 years.
Hield was on fire early, and the Kings went on to win easily, 122-105. And it wasn’t even that close. The Suns had a late surge in the fourth quarter just to make the score a bit respectable. The Kings, who got back over .500 with the victory (12-11 win-loss record) and occupy the ninth spot in the NBA’s Western Conference, led by as many as 35 points in the wire to wire victory.
Hield finished with a side-high 20 points in just 18 minutes of play. He had 18 points in the first half.
“I just found the right spots, right time and my teammates were able to hit me,” Hield was quoted as saying on ESPN. “Everybody did a great job of spreading the ball around.”
Hield finished 7-for-13 from the floor and was 3-for-5 from distance. He added five rebounds.
Ayton came a rebound short of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Bahamian big man who seemed lost for words said afterwards in relation to their slow start that he had never been in that situation before, and had no idea why the Suns started so badly. He played just 21 minutes in the game, and shot 5-for-8 from the floor.
“It just wasn’t a good night – from the jump,” said Ayton. “I just have to be more aggressive. It’s a learning process, and I have to work on it.”
The Suns scored just nine points in the opening quarter, and Ayton had four of the nine.
The Kings were ahead 36-9 after the opening quarter and 68-40 at the half. They stretched the lead to 99-67 at the end of three quarters. The Suns got as close as 14 points in the fourth but it was too little too late for them.
The Kings are right in the thick of things in the NBA’s Western Conference, fighting to get into the top eight, while the Suns dropped to a league worst 4-20.
Sharp-shooting Hield is having the best season of his three-year NBA career, averaging 18.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game – career-high numbers across the board.
The 6’4” 24-year-old guard is shooting a career-best 47.5 percent from the field and is now at 41.8 percent from distance. His string of at least one three point shot in 36 straight games, dating back to last season, was broken last Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers. He is in a three-way tie for 17th in the league in three pointers made this season with 56. Hield leads the Kings in scoring, is fifth in rebounding and fourth in assists.
In the league, Hield leads all third-year players in scoring, three pointers made and three-point shooting among those with at least 100 attempts. He is fourth in rebounding among third-year players and tied for seventh in assists.
Hield has scored 20 or more points 10 times this season, including five straight at one point and six out of seven. He had a season-high 28 points in a narrow 117-116 loss to the two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors on November 24. Hield has started every game at two-guard for the Kings this season and is averaging a career-high 30.6 minutes per game.
As for rookie Ayton, he continues to average a double-double, posting numbers of 16 points and 10.2 rebounds per game as the starting center of the Suns.
The 7’1”, 250-pound center continues to impress in his first season in the pros. He has started every game for the Suns and is averaging 31.3 minutes per game.
Ayton is shooting 60 percent from the floor this season and 78.3 percent from the free throw line.
He leads the Suns in rebounding and field goal percentage among those with at least 100 attempts, is third in scoring and third in assists. He is the only player on the team averaging a double-double. Ayton has 13 double-doubles this season, currently in a four-way tie for 12th in the league.
He is seventh in the league in field goal percentage among those with at least 200 attempts, and is tied for 15th in rebounding.
Ayton leads all rookies in rebounding and field goal percentage among those with at least 200 attempts. Additionally, he is second among rookies in scoring, second in minutes played and fourth in assists.
Hield and the Kings continue their four-game road trip as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday before going to Indianapolis, Indiana, to play the Pacers on Saturday.
Ayton and the Suns are in Portland and will play the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center tonight. Tomorrow, they return to the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix to play the Miami Heat.