Suns’ Deandre Ayton, left, dribbles as Mavericks’ Maxi Kleber (42) defends.
(AP Photos/Ashley Landis)
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns will miss out on the Western Conference “Play-In” game, despite a late run at the postseason that became a captivating storyline of the NBA restart.
The Suns completed their improbable run at the NBA’s Orlando “bubble” as the only team to go undefeated in the seeding games at 8-0 but finished at No.10 in the conference standings.
They concluded the seeding games with a 128-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks yesterday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Ayton finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. He also added three steals, two assists and one block in 26 minutes.
At 34-39 on the season, Phoenix finished tied with the No.9 Memphis Grizzlies (34-39), who held the tiebreaker.
The Grizzlies clinched a spot in the “Play-In” as the No.9 seed game with a 119-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday. The Portland Trail Blazers (35-39) claimed the No.8 seed with a 134-133 win over the Brooklyn Nets last night in their season finale.
The No.8 vs No.9 play-in game scheduled for August 15. If the No.8 seed wins they will advance to the playoffs and if No.9 wins, the teams will play a second game on August 16 to decide who advances to the playoffs.
Ayton was mic’d up during the TNT broadcast and foreshadowed what the Suns can accomplish next season.
“With a full season with all of us. Hey NBA we’ll be back next year. We proved ourselves though, put some respect on our names.”
In his second NBA season, Ayton averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 55 per cent from the field in just 38 games. As a team, the Suns broke the NBA record for the highest single-season free throw percentage in league history at 83.4 per cent.
Suns head coach Monty Williams addressed the team following their win in the finale, reiterating that the eight-game win streak was a major building block for the future.
“It’s been an unreal ride. I want you guys to know this. This was therapeutic for me to be around a group like this. I don’t care what happens, I know what I got in this room. It has been cool for me to be with y’all to watch you guys work and battle and gain the respect of your peers the way you have on this trip,” Williams said. “We’re not the Suns of old. You’ve been through a lot. It is hard to play the way you played every single night and not get the respect you deserved. Nobody thought we would come in here, go 8-0 and beat the teams we beat, just know that this was special. Don’t let anybody take this away from you, you gained the respect of the league, now you get to build on it. You want to be the kind of team that controls your own destiny, that’s our next step.”
Ayton has had several challenges this season, most notably when he missed time with a 25-game suspension due to violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy. He also missed seven games this season due to an injured ankle, including a withdrawal from the 2020 NBA Rising Stars game at NBA All-Star Weekend.