Phoenix Suns centre Deandre Ayton (22) looks to pass against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
Deandre Ayton got his Phoenix Suns off to a hot start while “Buddy” Hield and the Sacramento Kings struggled early on the opening weekend of the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida.
The Suns are off to a 2-0 start at the NBA clean site after coming in with the worst record among Western Conference teams in Orlando, while the Kings are on the opposite end of the spectrum winless at 0-2 thus far.
The Suns are now 28-39, 0.5 game behind the Kings at 28-38. Both teams return to the court tomorrow when the Suns take on the LA Clippers at 4pm and the Kings face the Dallas Mavericks at 2pm.
Ayton played just 21 foul plagued minutes and finished with seven points and eight rebounds in the Suns’ 117-115 win over the Mavericks Sunday night.
“It was a great look for us to see what we’ve got, see what we can be. Us trying our best to see where we end up, trying to compete every game. We’re just going to go game by game, not settling for mediocre,” Ayton said.
Despite the loss, the Mavericks clinched a playoff spot with the Memphis Grizzlies loss to the San Antonio Spurs. It will be their first postseason appearance since 2016.
In game one, Ayton finished with a double double - 24 points, 12 rebounds - and made the first official three-point field goals of his career in a regular season game. He shot an efficient 11-14 from the field and 2-3 from three-point range.
“Like I just told them, this is what I wanted to experience in this bubble was something like this where we just had our backs against the wall and across the board we got efforts from everybody,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “I was just wanting them to experience something like that so we can grow as a team.”
The Kings suffered a lopsided 132-116 loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Hield went for 12 points on 5-13 shooting from the field and 2-7 from three-point range. He also added five assists in 20 minutes but also committed three turnovers.
The Kings suffered a 129-120 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their Orlando opener on Friday.
He scored just six points on 2-13 shooting from the field, 1-8 from the field three while adding four rebounds, an assist and a steal in 20 minutes off the bench. “We’re in uncharted territory right now,” Kings head coach Luke Walton said following the loss.
“The season stopped, we’re in a bubble, we played in this high-energy, high-intensity opening game that both teams need. We end up coming out on the losing side of it. And like a team that isn’t there yet, hasn’t made it, doesn’t know what that’s like, as far as experience, now you’ve lost this big anticipated game and now you have a letdown.”
As the Kings search for answers, Walton also told reporters that the starting lineup and rotation would be revisited. “We’ll look at it, as soon as I get back to the hotel and I get into the film,” he said. “That was disappointing. Disappointing to say the least.”
In the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the No.8 Grizzlies are 32-35. Prior to Monday night’s games, the five teams behind - the Spurs (29-36), Trail Blazers (30-38), Pelicans (28-38), Kings (28-38) and Suns (28-39) are within two wins of each other.
If the No.9 seed is more than four games behind the No.8 seed, No. 8 will make the playoffs. If they are fewer than four games behind, the teams will compete in a play-in tournament for the final spot.
The Suns go on to face the Indiana Pacers (August 6), Miami Heat (August 8), Oklahoma City Thunder (August 10), Philadelphia 76ers (August 11) and the Mavericks for a second time (August 13).
The remainder of the Kings’ schedule includes matchups against the New Orleans Pelicans (August 6), Brooklyn Nets (August 7), Houston Rockets (August 9), Pelicans (August 11), and Los Angeles Lakers (August 13).