Tagged in: Deandre Ayton

Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul, aided by improving shoulder, takes over in 4th quarter to close out Game 1 win against Denver Nuggets

There are many things Chris Paul is good at, but one of his most crucial skills is sensing a moment. It’s never about how he starts; it’s how he finishes.

And in Game 1 of the Phoenix Suns’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the visiting Denver Nuggets, Paul started slowly, hitting just two of his eight shots through three quarters. But as the Suns grabbed hold of the contest, so did Paul, going 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter as Phoenix cruised to a 122-105 win.

“It’s in his hands, man,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “He’s made us comfortable … just knowing that he’s got it.”

Paul’s command of the match was on full display, with him methodically asserting himself early in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 consecutive points for the Suns as they widened their lead.

He concluded with 21 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes, and while his grip on the fourth quarter separated Phoenix, the team showcased its impressive balance and depth throughout.

All five starters finished in double figures, scoring at least 14 points.

The Suns are the first team since the 2013 Golden State Warriors (Game 2 in Round 1) with four 20-point scorers on 55% shooting from the floor in a playoff game.

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“That’s what I’ve said all season long: We have a team,” Paul said. “If you try to take one of us out or whatnot, we make the right play. Who you gonna leave open? Mikal [Bridges] is cash. Jae [Crowder] is cash. Cam [Johnson]. I could keep going on and on, and that’s the benefits of having a team.”

For Paul, better health was part of his fourth-quarter output, as he is now two weeks past his initial shoulder injury sustained in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s something he is still dealing with, but as Paul already gets better the longer the game goes on, his shoulder also does.

“It definitely loosens up,” Paul said. “One thing about it is you don’t get no practice time. The only way you get a chance to see how it is is during the game. It was good. It was fun to get out there and be involved. That last series was, that was tough. I’m glad to be back helping the team.”

Paul scored or assisted on 20 of the Suns’ final 34 points. It’s his ninth career playoff game with 20 points, 10 assists and one or fewer turnovers, passing LeBron James for the most in the league with that line since turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78.

At 36 years old, Paul is the oldest player in NBA history with 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in a playoff game; only four other players — James (six times), Elgin Baylor, John Stockton and Dennis Johnson — have put up that stat line at age 35 or older.

“Man, it’s a different game for him these days from when I was watching him play,” Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon said of Paul.

“He was a lot more explosive back in the day, getting to the cup. He’s always been really smart, and he just keeps getting smarter. He’s a maestro out there orchestrating them. He really has uplifted that whole Phoenix team.

“Just how he talks, how he communicates with them out on the floor; you can tell that he just gives the entire team confidence.”

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Suns’ Deandre Ayton tests positive, gets 25-game ban

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton released an apology for what he labeled an “unintentional mistake” after the NBA handed down a 25-game suspension to the second-year player on Thursday evening for violating the terms of the league and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) anti-drug program.

According to the league’s statement, Ayton tested positive for a diuretic, which is banned by the league as diuretics can be used to hide or cleanse the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“I do understand the unfortunate impact that this has on so many others, and for that, I am deeply sorry,” Ayton said in a statement. “I’m extremely disappointed that I’ve let my team down.”

With the 25-game suspension, Ayton will lose roughly $2 million in salary.

Ayton, 21, entered the season expecting to earn approximately $116,620 per game in 82 regular-season outings, which totals about $9.5 million for the 2019-20 season.

According to ESPN, the NBPA is planning to appeal Ayton’s suspension with the thinking this occasion falls under the “unintentional ingestion” provision of the collective bargaining agreement.

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“On behalf of the Phoenix Suns organization, (coach) Monty Williams and I are disappointed in the actions by Deandre Ayton that led to his testing positive for a banned diuretic and subsequent suspension by the NBA,” Suns GM James Jones said in a statement. “This does not uphold the standards and principles we have set for the team.”

“Deandre has expressed his deepest remorse,” Jones continued. “While he is suspended we remain committed to his growth and development on and off the court. His actions are not taken lightly, and we are committed to ensuring that Deandre understands the profound impact it has had on the team, organization, and Suns community.”

Drafted No. 1 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Suns, Ayton, a former University of Arizona standout, ended with 18 points and 11 rebounds in his season debut, helping the Suns beat the Sacramento Kings, 124-95 earlier this week. In his rookie season, Ayton averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 71 games.

Ayton’s suspension will start Friday as he will miss the Suns’ contest against the Denver Nuggets. As of now, he will be eligible to return to the lineup on Dec. 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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