Ayton had himself a strong return, scoring 18 points on 9-19 shooting with 12 rebounds (seven of which were offensive) and 24 minutes of action. He was effective in the paint as he constantly crashed it and grabbed rebounds. He also played a bit aggressive in his return, perhaps because he was missing the game or perhaps the team was without star Devin Booker.
However, it wasn’t perfect as Ayton struggled to spread the floor out, not even attempting a three point shot. It’s a bit unfair to expect him to launch three’s his first game back but that’s something to pay attention to as he readjust himself back to the lineup.
The team came into the matchup without Booker as he missed his third straight game and the team struggled to find enough offense without him. The Suns were miserable from the three point line, shooting 10 for 35, while the Clippers went 14 for 32 there.
Though the Suns had some success from their bench with all but two players scoring at least nine points, Ricky Rubio and Mikal Bridges had a tough outing, combining for nine points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. The Clippers on the other hand were able to keep pressure on the Suns to stay on pace as the bench, led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, clobbered them, combining for 35 points and 11 assists.
Even with the play from the Clippers bench involved, the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George proved to potent for the crippled Suns to take care of. Leonard and George combined for 44 points, nine rebounds and three assist and probably could’ve done more damage had the game not gotten out of reach late in the third.
George and Kelly Oubre Jr. had quite the enjoyable head to head matchup when the game was close, as Oubre even got the best of him on multiple occasions. Oubre was once again the Suns leading scorer, racking up 19 points off 8 of 14 shooting and racked up three steals. He constantly put pressure on Leonard or George depending on the matchup and he played his heart out defensively and offensively.
Even with the return of Ayton, so long as the team was without Booker, this was going to be a tough win for them. Booker is so much of the offense for this team and his presence would’ve made such a major impact. However, there’s no excuse for a loss like this as 21 points is the most the team has loss by this year. Whether it’s simply the team was exhausted from the back to back or the Clippers depth overran them, if the Suns want to compete for a playoff spot, the team can’t compete like this.