It was a night where two of The Bahamas’ most prominent athletes went head-to-head.
This time around DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns won game one of their pacific division series with Buddy Hield and the Sacramento Kings this past Wednesday, October 23.
The final score at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona was 124-95. Hield led all scorers with a game-high 28 points on 52.6 percent shooting from the field (10-for-19; six-for-12 from three-point range). The 6´5´´ shooting guard also added five rebounds and two assists in the loss.
Ayton, who averaged a double-double for his rookie campaign last year, picked up where he left off totalling 18 points and collecting 11 rebounds. The 6´11´´ center also made it difficult for Kings’ players around the rim and finished the contest with four blocks.
It was a tale of two halves for the Kings. While it was a back and forth between both teams in the first half, the Kings controlled the tempo and eventually held a 59-54 lead at half-time.
Hield was on fire to lead the Kings in the opening half. The Pinedale, Eight Mile Rock native scored 22 of his 28 points in the first half.
The Sun transformed into the stronger team in the second half. The Kings led 61-56 before the Sun sparked a 10-2 run at the 10:00 mark of the third quarter. That helped Phoenix take a 66-64 lead that they would not relinquish.
Marvin Bagley III was the second leading scorer for the Kings with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Suns’ guard Devin Booker finished with 22 points and 10 assists.
Buddy described the loss in a post-game interview posted on Cowbell Kingdom’s Instagram page saying, “They (Suns) played hard. The way Kelly (Oubre Jr.) and DeAndre cleaned up on rebounds. Guys who you didn’t expect to make shots made shots. They just got hot and when they did we couldn’t get into a rhythm after that.
“It was just one of those nights.”
As for Ayton, his biggest focus was on the defensive end. Monty Williams, the first-year head coach for the Suns wanted the second-year center to become a better rim protector - a challenge he gladly accepted.
“Coach Monty is big on defending. So when you watch film and you’re the biggest dude on the court and you’re not protecting the rim, we have a problem,” he expressed, “So I’m just emphasizing that in my game and really giving it my all and risking it - whether it’s a foul or not.”
The Kings traveled back to Sacramento for their home opener at the Golden 1 Center against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers that Friday, October 25. The Kings, fell to 0-2 on the season when they suffered a 122-112 loss.
Hield finished with 21 points on seven-for-18 shooting from the field and collected five rebounds.
Following that game, the Kings were back on the road and lost their third-straight game on a back-to-back to the Utah Jazz (October 26), 113-81. Hield finished with just three points on one-for-seven shooting from the field.
Tonight, the Kings face a mammoth test in Denver, Colorado when they face off against the Nuggets at 10:00 p.m.