It continues to be a tale of two stories for the two Bahamians in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns continued their torrid start to the NBA restart yesterday, taking down the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers on a dramatic buzzer-beating shot from star guard Devin Booker, while Chavano “Buddy” Hield and the Sacramento Kings fell to the Dallas Mavericks in overtime.
The Suns recorded their third straight victory in the NBA restart as they took down the Clippers, 117-115, on a turnaround jumper from Booker as time expired. They improved to a 29-39 win/loss record and are now just three games behind the eighth place Memphis Grizzlies (32-36), and one game behind the ninth-place Portland Trailblazers (30-38) in the Western Conference of the NBA. The result of the Blazers and Houston Rockets’ game last night was unavailable up to press time. The Suns occupy the 12th spot in the standings, and need to be in the top nine to give themselves a chance at making the postseason. If they are ninth and are within four games of the eighth spot, they will play an in-house tournament against that eighth-seeded team. As for Hield and the Kings, they lost their third straight game of the NBA restart, falling to the Mavericks 114-110, in overtime, yesterday. All of the games are played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
Booker was fantastic for the Suns yesterday, dropping in a game-high 35 points on 13-for-25 shooting including 6-of-9 from downtown. He added four rebounds and eight assists. Ayton was strong with 19 points on 9-for-18 shooting for the Suns, and continues to show the outside touch as he had a three-point shot in two attempts. He contributed seven rebounds and four assists. Point guard Ricky Rubio added 18 points, and Dario Saric and Cameron Payne scored 13 and 12 respectively off the bench.
Kawhi Leonard paced the Clippers with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Paul George added 23 points, six rebounds and five assists. Ivica Zubac contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Marcus Morris Sr. dropped in 16 points.
The upstart Suns controlled the pace for much of the game, but behind Leonard and George, the Clippers executed a late comeback. They trailed by as much as eight in the fourth before coming back to even the score three times in the final two minutes of play. Every time they pulled even, the Suns had an answer, culminated by Booker’s game-winning shot in the final seconds. Leonard scored eight of his 27 in the fourth and George sank six of his 23 in the fourth.
Ayton played a part in that last sequence for the Suns, getting his hands on an attempted pass from Zubac and deflecting it to a teammate with just eight seconds remaining. The ball ended up in the hands of Booker who masterfully worked the clock down before connecting on a turnaround jumper at the buzzer.
The Suns are now very much in playoff contention, but things are getting tight in the bubble as the bottom five teams in the west, ninth through 13th, are separated by just a game and a half in the standings. In the mix are Hield and the Kings, despite dropping three in a row. They are 13th with a 28-39 record.
Hield and the Kings played much better in their game against the Mavericks on Tuesday than they did in their previous two games in the bubble, but still suffered the same result.
The Bahamian sharp shooter found his touch late, dropping in 21 points on 8-for-20 shooting including 5-for-14 from downtown for the Kings. He had a pair of three-point shots and eight points in total for the Kings in the overtime session but it wasn’t enough as Luka Dončić and the Mavericks built a seven-point lead twice in the extra session and never looked back.
Speedy point guard De’Aaron Fox led the way for the Kings with 28 points, three rebounds and nine assists. Hield added 21 and Kent Bazemore scored 16. Nemanja Bjelica had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings.
Dončić had a massive game with 34 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists for the Mavericks. Kristaps Porzingis added 22 points and seven rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 points and added five rebounds, and Dorian Finney-Smith contributed a huge double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
The Mavericks led for just 51 seconds in all of regulation but took over in the extra session, building a seven-point lead twice. Hardaway scored six points in the extra session for the Mavericks and Finney-Smith added five. Trey Burke hit a pair of free shots with 4.4 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Mavericks a 114-110 lead. Hield missed a three-point shot at the buzzer but it wouldn’t have made a difference in the final result.
Both the Suns and Kings will be back in action on Thursday. The Kings will take on Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans at 1:30 p.m., and the Suns will battle the Indiana Pacers at 4 p.m.