Sports

Strong restart for Ayton, Suns

Bahamian professional basketball player DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns got off to a strong restart in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as they picked up two key wins at the NBA Campus at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend.

The Suns dropped the Dallas Mavericks, 117-115, in a game that went right down to the wire on Sunday. On Friday night in their opener, they defeated the Washington Wizards, 125-112.

With a 28-39 win/loss record, they are four games behind the eighth place Memphis Grizzlies (32-35) in the Western Conference of the NBA.

Ayton had a tough match-up Sunday night, defending the Mavericks’ Kristaps Porzingis. The Bahamian only managed to finish with seven points and eight rebounds after playing in foul trouble for most of the game. He logged just over 21 minutes in the game.

Ayton was going for an alley-oop dunk with 3:44 remaining in the game when he was pushed by Dorian Finney-Smith on the attempt. Finney-Smith was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. Ayton scored his seventh point of the night when he split a pair of free throws to put his team up 112-109.

From there, the Suns held on to the lead as they thwarted a comeback attempt by Porzingis and the Mavericks.

The 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick in the NBA committed his third foul of the game with 8:13 remaining in the second quarter. That forced Head Coach Monty Williams to sit him for the remainder of the first half. Ayton checked out of the game at that point with just four points and six rebounds.

Ayton scored his sixth point of the game, on a turnaround hook shot, with 11:18 remaining in the third quarter. The Mavericks led 73-62 at that point. With six points and seven rebounds, Ayton committed his fifth foul of the game with 8:25 remaining in the third quarter.

The Suns’ reserves along with guard Ricky Rubio staged a comeback for them. Rubio’s putback shot with 5:33 remaining in the third quarter gave the Suns an 81-80 lead. They went into the fourth quarter with a 96-92 lead.

Ayton finished with the least touches of the starting five with just 32 touches. He also went 3-for-8 from the field and hit just two free shots.

The Suns’ 12 three-pointers in the game made a difference as the Mavericks made just six on 19.4 percent shooting from long range.

Leading the way for the Suns in scoring was Devin Booker with 30 points. Luka Dončić led the way with a game-high 40 points for the Mavericks.

After only scoring just six points and pulling down a whopping 10 rebounds in the first half on Friday afternoon against the Wizards, the big man went off in the second half. He scored seven points in the third quarter and poured in 11 more points in the fourth quarter to finish with 24 points in the opening victory for the Suns. Ayton added 12 rebounds to open the restart with a double-double. He also had two blocks.

Ayton’s 24 points included him going 2-for-3 from three-point land – one of which was the final points of the game. He was on a mission in that game, making 11 of his 18 shot attempts from the field to finish with a 78.6 percent clip in the game. He had a team-high 72 touches in that game.

After they took a lead midway through the second quarter, the Suns never trailed the rest of the way. They had a 15-point cushion at one point. They shot a blistering 52.5 percent from the field and the Wizards shot 46.2 percent. The Suns also showed good ball movement with 29 assists.

There are six games remaining on the Suns’ schedule in the regular season. They will be back on the court today when they face a tough Los Angeles Clippers team at 4 p.m. on NBATV.

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