Visions of young center Deandre Ayton danced in our heads while OKC’s entire center rotation took the day off. This would be ‘the Ayton game’. After a lackluster game on Saturday and a confidence boost from a self-congratulating Woj interview on Sunday, Ayton would surely be ready to grace the world with his first 30/20 game of the Bubble.
But then, the starting lineups rolled out and Dario Saric appeared in Ayton’s place. WTF?!!?!?My slack, twitter and text feeds blew up and I had no idea what was going on. He had not been listed on the injury report, and there was no social mention of him being out for any reason.
Then Fox Sports Arizona followed up the starting lineup graphic with a quick message that Ayton had missed his required COVID-19 test on Sunday, and was waiting results of Monday morning’s test before being cleared to join his teammates for the game. As of gametime, those results were not in yet.
Twitter melted. The Bright Side Slack channel melted. Our visions of sugarplums were quickly replaced by !#&@&#@!.
This was an inexcusable lapse in judgment by Ayton. You simply cannot give me a good reason for him to have skipped his mandatory testing window. You cannot argue it’s a ‘new routine’. They’ve been in the Bubble for a MONTH! You cannot argue he was distracted by life. THEY ARE IN A BUBBLE WITH NOTHING ELSE TO DO. You cannot argue anything that makes sense. All you can do is shake your head and entertain visions of his mother slapping him silly over this.
I was livid, unable to contain myself, even moreso when the team came out flat and got down to the Thunder 37-22 of a MUST WIN GAME in the first quarter.
I put this whole game on Ayton. His missed test just disrupted the good feels up and down the roster. Like, here we go again.— Dave King ✊ ✊ ✊ (@DaveKingNBA) August 10, 2020
All I could think was that Ayton had personally cost the Suns their second chance at a playoff berth this season. He’d ruined the first 65 games with that stupid suspension, and now he’d ruined the perfect Bubble run.
Ayton eventually showed up to the game, and after being ignored in the first quarter he was inserted at the start of the second quarter. (Monty Williams might have wanted to sit Ayton the whole game, but three minutes of Frank Kaminsky and a 15-point deficit in a must-win game might have changed his mind)
Ayton managing to bookend this promising season with awful decisions is just so... Suns— Dave King ✊ ✊ ✊ (@DaveKingNBA) August 10, 2020
He'd BETTER BUST HIS ASS out there and save this game or he will never hear the end of it.
Well, Ayton did not save the game. He only posted 10 points and 6 rebounds, and no blocks, in 17 minutes of play during the middle two quarters. But at least in those 17 minutes the Suns were +22 on the scoreboard and had erased the Thunder’s lead by halftime.
Nice to see the Suns take the lead at halftime 65-64 after being down 15 in the first quarter.— Dave King ✊ ✊ ✊ (@DaveKingNBA) August 10, 2020
Mental toughness across the team: Booker, CamJ, Carter, CamP, Dario all made huge effort plays!
Indeed, it was not Ayton showing mental toughness. It was instead his teammates who rallied once the rotation was normal again. After Cameron Johnson and Devin Booker were the only two to keep the Suns alive in the first quarter, it was once again the whirling dervish tandem of Jevon Carter and Cameron Payne who sparked the comeback-nee-blowout as the Suns outscored the Thunder 75-43 in the middle two quarters. Carter and Payne combined for 6 steals, 4 threes and 22 points overall in the game.
May Jevon Carter never get winded, never leave this game— Dave King ✊ ✊ ✊ (@DaveKingNBA) August 10, 2020
Our buddies at The Timeline Podcast had a stellar day on the socials.
Trying to get away from Jevon Carter like... pic.twitter.com/wwj0v4NSnr— The Timeline Podcast (@TheTimelinePod) August 10, 2020
When Jevon Carter gets switched onto a center... pic.twitter.com/WN0k6ChQvA— The Timeline Podcast (@TheTimelinePod) August 10, 2020
Player: dribbles— The Timeline Podcast (@TheTimelinePod) August 10, 2020
Jevon Carter: pic.twitter.com/VyuYRFNKNG
But let’s not forget All-Star Devin Booker is the MAN. The Suns don’t go anywhere without Booker at the helm, and once again he created a lifetime memory from this Bubble Run.
Booker finished with 35 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in only three quarters of play. he sat the fourth because the rout was on.
Our contributor Sam Cooper put together this nifty video of Booker’s toughest shots in the Bubble for his Timeline followers and now for Bright Side to enjoy as well.
Here's a compilation of Devin Booker's toughest shots through 6 bubble games (where he's averaging 30.3 PPG on 50% FG).— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) August 10, 2020
His combination of range, mid-range touch, and finishing is unlike any other player in the league at this point. His versatility as a scorer is unmatched. pic.twitter.com/GspW0IrNFA
Have a nice morning, Suns fans!
Your 6-0 Suns face the 76ers today at 1:30pm AZ time. I’m done anticipating ‘the Ayton game’ to lead the Suns to important victory. Just give me the tsunami of Carter and Payne, the rumblin bumblin Dario Saric, noodle boys Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges and the sublime beauty of Devin Booker and I’m good.
If the Suns win and all three of them lose — or at least the Blazers and Grizzlies lose — the Suns will control their own destiny to make that play-in game.