Sports

Strong seasons for Hield, Ayton

Bahamian professional basketball player with the Sacramento Kings Chavano “Buddy” Hield saved his best for last as he was firing on all cylinders in their season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers. Held finished with a game-high 28 points, helping the Kings beat the Lakers 136-122. However, Hield and the Kings were eliminated from earlier in the week.

The other Bahamian in the NBA, DeAndre Ayton, and the Phoenix Suns experienced some drama on Thursday night as their season came down due to a missed shot at the buzzer from Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets in their game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Had LeVert hit that shot, the Suns would have played in the play-in mini tournament against the Memphis Grizzlies with a chance to advance to the playoffs. Instead, LeVert missed the shot and the Blazers won the game and took the last spot in the play-in tournament. The Suns ended up 10th in the Western Conference of the NBA while the Blazers went on to defeat the Grizzlies in the play-in mini tournament. They will now move on to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Ayton finished the season averaging 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field. In his rookie season a year ago, he posted 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

As for Hield, he was instrumental for his team off the bench, finishing 8-for-14 from three-point territory and shooting a scorching 57.1 percent from distance. He played 26 minutes overall and did not play the final six minutes of the game as the Kings were in full control.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who took Hield’s position in the starting lineup in January, had 27 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Sacramento, making 11 of 23 from the field and 5 of 11 from three-point range. Nemanja Bjelica posted 15 points, a career-high 13 assists and eight rebounds.

In their previous game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, Hield surpassed former guard Mike Bibby on the Kings’ franchise list for most three-pointers with 776. Hield is now third on the list with 784. Mitch Richmond is second with 993 made three-pointers. Peja Stojaković is the franchise record holder with 1,070 made three-point shots.

The eight made three-pointers by Hield against the Lakers helped the Kings record a record-tying 21 three-point shots in the game.

Hield made his 270th three-pointer of the season with 1:38 to play in the third quarter against the Lakers. With that, he became just the third player in NBA history to make at least 270 three-pointers in consecutive seasons, joining Stephen Curry (2014-17) and James Harden (2018-20).

Hield made 278 three-pointers last season, smashing Stojaković’s single-season record of 240. This season, he made 271 despite the season being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was second only to Harden’s 299.

In their season finale, the Kings played without dynamic point guard De’Aaron Fox, Richaun Holmes and Kent Bazemore. Anthony Davis, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo were out for the Lakers.

LeBron James, a four-time most valuable player (MVP) and one of three finalists for the award this year, was listed as questionable with right groin soreness going into the game. Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel said before the game James would play, but only the first half. Danny Green also sat out the second half.

The Lakers had already locked up the number one seed in the west and was focused on the first round of the playoffs. Dion Waiters led them with 19 points. James added 17 points, four assists and three rebounds before sitting out the second half.

As a team, the Kings shot 21-for-47 from behind the arc – 44.7 percent overall. They finished with a 56.8 percent shooting from the field. The Lakers shot 49 percent from the field.

It was the fourth game this season in which Hield finished with at least eight made in a game, showing why he has the moniker “Buddy Buckets”. He was also able to finish the game with five rebounds and two assists.

Hield and the Kings finished the season with a 31-41 win/loss record, and were 3-5 in the bubble on the NBA Campus at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Grand Bahamian checked in the game with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter with the Lakers up 24-23. The Lakers went on a 13-4 run, but Hield made a three-point shot with 34.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter to trim the Lakers’ lead to 37-30. That was his first and only shot in the quarter.

The fourth-year guard was most active in the second quarter, scoring half of his total points in that quarter. He connected on two three-pointers just before the intermission to put his team up 66-56 at the half.

He made five shots from the field in that quarter, including four three-pointers.

The NBA Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest Champion was more aggressive in this game after combining for a meager 16 field-goal attempts in the two games prior.

After taking a 52-50 lead with 6:16 remaining in the second quarter, the Kings never trailed again. The Kings’ biggest lead of the game was 28 points in the third quarter.

In his eight games in the season restart, the Bahamian finished with an average of 14.2 points per game, well below his season average of 19.1 points per game. He made 27 triples to average 3.3 triples a game in the bubble.

He told reporters after the game that he chalked up his slow play in the bubble to just missing shots.

The guard played 71 games this season. He averaged 3.8 three-points per game – his highest in his short NBA career. Hield averaged 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

With the Kings not making the playoffs for a 14th straight year, they exit the bubble. They’ll look to putting in work during the offseason to return stronger next season.

They have several personnel decisions to make as Bogdanovic and DaQuan Jeffries are restricted free agents. Bazemore, Harry Giles III, Alex Len, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer will be unrestricted free agents. Free agency will begin October 18.

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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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