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Ayton Watch 2.0: A dominant 1st half performance overshadowed by 1 FGA in the 2nd

Deandre Ayton jumps out to a white hot start only to become a ghost on offense.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ayton Watch is back after plenty of fan mail threatening to bring it back.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of positives when it comes to the Phoenix Suns, but I had a feeling that bringing back Ayton Watch versus the Sacramento Kings may end well. It was tracking that way. Until it wasn’t.

Here is my account of what occurred as it occurred on Wednesday evening.


First Half

Fatigue for Deandre Ayton may still be an issue this early in the season, as for the rest of the Suns. ‘Twas a short offseason. Sure, I’ll play that narrative. It’s all we got.

Running the floor in the beginning of the first quarter even on dead balls benefited him with three alley-oop attempts, succeeding on two of them. He was active in setting screens and attempting to free up his teammates. He was rewarded for this effort.

We saw plenty of it in the playoffs last year and somewhat in the first three games of the year, where the hot starts by Ayton fizzle away late in games. Let’s see if that is the case Wednesday night against Kings.

Following Chris Paul through the lane for another oop, Paul chose to take the shot himself. I don’t know why he doesn’t engage with the big man sometimes. If this was 2012 in Los Angeles, you’d see Ayton highlights on ESPN nightly.

Paul was able to get a good look at the floater, but hit the back of the rim (this would be a theme on the night as Paul ended 1-of-10 from the field). Have no fear, DA is there! Ayton reached way, way back to palm the rebound and throw it through the rim. Extra effort to get the job done. You love to see it.

The “he’s on fire” start for Ayton has begun.

Some plays the offense was running through him, others it was not, but his focus through the first half of the first quarter was clear. Even if the ball didn’t fall the Suns way Ayton tried his best to keep the possession alive on the offense. Perhaps when you play against a hustle-machine like Richaun Holmes it ups your awareness? Regardless, Ayton appears locked in. This is the best he has looked all season.

‘Tired Ayton’ is a thing...and my fantasy basketball team name. The effort comes at a price and he looks exhausted early on. Kudos to him for playing through it.

His aggressiveness at the rim has the defense sagging off of him a bit. Ayton deposits a crisp wide open jump-shot from 18 feet away; his feet were perfectly set and he was able to only hit the bottom of the net.

Solid start for Ayton as he has 8 points in the first 9 minutes played.

SUB out: D. Ayton 2:56 in the 1st

...

SUB in: D. Ayton 8:26 in the 2nd

Ayton looked eager to get back in the game after JaVale McGee put up quite the performance while Ayton was on the bench. There was a greed for more.

The next jump shot hit by Ayton was with assurance and a little hop-step into the make. Next possession, his hands were up and ready for another. As the offense seemed to stumble for the Suns, Ayton has the look of wanting to take over.

The man was running in the half-court. His was wearing rocket skates, coursing through the lanes to get any good look his teammates would afford him. Looking a little tired after that display of energy, Ayton was still able to help out on the offensive glass.

The jumper still looks fantastic. Ayton once again pulls the trigger from 18 feet and tickles to twine.

You could see Devin Booker on the bench pounding his fists together in the direction of Ayton to keep it up!

It looked as if Ayton was finding his real energy in the first half. The energy that can lead a team.

Halftime


Second Half

Lost on screens on offense and thinking too much with the ball, Ayton and the Suns offense looked like it was running into some trouble.

It is a difficult thing to bring over the energy from the first half, but the Suns needed to look towards Ayton. Deandre also needs to bring the same energy to not let his team down. Call for the ball. Demand the rock. You led the team in the first half, but his complacency is sinking in.

Ok, here we go.

You can see the legs of Ayton beginning to churn again, he is putting forth the effort. Shots were still not falling for any of the Suns and they’ve entered this iso-hero-ball mode rather than running the offense.

This isn’t good for DA. There is no offensive flow. Phoenix looks like they were coming back to Ayton but nothing is coming to fruition. Not even a shot attempt. Again, like I mentioned at the beginning, hot starts generally lead to cold finishes. The rebounds are there, but nothing else has carried over to the second half so far for Ayton.

Except a little carelessness.

Why have the Suns gone away from the player who helped them build an 8-point halftime lead? Shot selection is decent, but nothing is falling.

Do know what can fall? A good ole fashion Deandre Ayton alley-oop. To things need to happen: get the ball to DA. Then pay him.

I was trying to track down Ayton as the third quarter continued, but he was hiding in the bushes. This is what happens when you don’t engage him. He fades into the mist. While Booker starts to take control of the offense, Ayton is going to take a back seat for the time being.

The effort by Ayton on the boards is there and always will be, but a blind eye from other teammates to find him looked like part of the game plan. Monty needs to watch some of this tape. The only way DA is touching the ball is on the defensive glass. There is rebound number 11!

Ah! They finally succeed in getting him the ball! A nice little bouche pass from Chris Paul leads to a sexy spin and touch make. Ayton thought he was fouled — and didn’t get back on defense — but maybe he’s upset because that was his only shot of the quarter. ***Note: This would be his only make of the second half ***

SUB Out: D. Ayton 4:13 in the 3rd

...

SUB In: D. Ayton 8:31 in the 4th

With Ayton back in the game and down 10 points, is it too late to try and get him going again for the Suns? Or does the team have to resort to perimeter shooting to get back in this thing? Watch and find out...although you already know the answer as you are reading this tomorrow.

It might only happen on defense and on the boards as Ayton grabs rebounds and swats shots, continuing to tip the ball to his teammates. At least he’s a team player. Feeling ignored, he was able to still help his team in the best way he can. Hitting the glass.

It seemed to be too late, even before hitting the 5:00 mark in the fourth quarter. An unselfish Ayton watched a very selfish team around him hogging the ball. Not involved in the offense towards the end of the game, grabbing the boards and playing his famous defense still helped the Suns stay within reach of taking the lead.

You know how it ended. Ugh.


It was a damn solid performance from Deandre Ayton. His final stat line of 21 points and 21 rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting is just ridiculous. In fact, it was historical:

What is disappointing was the fact that everyone realized how special he was playing except his teammates. Ayton’s stat line for the second half? 1-of-1, 5 points, 10 boards. The team went 3-of-12 from deep. Take two of those possessions, get Ayton the ball in a space where he can dominate, and you win the game.

Ayton needs to become the wide receiver NBA that demands the ball. Go Randy Moss on them if you have to DA. After Wednesday night’s game, his teammates need to trust him to get the team a victory. He is capable. On night’s where he is cooking...let him cook.

Overall grade: A+