The game Bahamian basketball enthusiasts had circled on their calendars, was no nail-biter but still possessed a historic aspect.
For the first time in Bahamian history two of the country’s prominent basketball players and NBA Draft lottery picks -- ‘Buddy’ Hield (No. 6 - 2016) and DeAndre Ayton (No. 1 - 2018)-- went head-to-head as the Sacramento Kings took on the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix Arizona this past Tuesday night (December 4).
A white-hot start for the now 12-11 Kings helped them roll to a 122-105 victory over the 4-20 Suns.
Hield led all Kings’ scorers with 20 points (Seven-for-13 from the field) while he shot three-for-five from three-point range. The Eight Mile Rock native also corralled five rebounds and finished with one steal on the defensive end. His backcourt running mate, point guard De’Arron Fox added 16 points on Five-for-11 shooting, all while dishing out seven assists.
The Kings had five other scorers finish with double-digit scoring efforts. Forward Bogdan Bogdanovic poured in 14 points off the bench, and forward Harry Giles III added 13 points. Kosta Koufos and Troy Williams each amassed11 points, while Justin Jackson contributed 10 points.
Ayton, who averages a double-double for the season, nearly added another double-double to his rookie resumé. The number one draft pick mustered 10 points (Five-for-Eight shooting) and pulled down nine boards in the blow-out loss. De’Anthony Melton led all scorers with a game-high 21 points off the bench and dished out five assists.
Forwards Josh Jackson and Trevor Ariza added 14 points each, while guard Troy Daniels supplied 13 points. The Suns were without their lead shooting guard Devin Booker.
The Kings hung 68 points on the struggling Suns to lead 68-40 at halftime. The hot shooting for the Kings continued as they put the game out of reach by the end of third period, when they led 99-67.
As Hield spoke briefly with the media after the game, the 6’4” shooting guard emphasized that the plan was to be aggressive on both ends of the court, which proved evident from the team’s outburst in the first quarter.
As it pertains to the historic spectrum of the contest, Hield said that regardless of the outcome it was great for the country to witness both sons of the soil go head-to-head. It’s the first, very likely, of many matchups for the pair as they both play in the same conference and division (Pacific).
More importantly, Hield said a game of this magnitude for the country should serve as motivation for young persons with the same aspirations.
“I think it was good especially for where Bahamas basketball is going. I think it’s just a blessing to just encourage the youth back home to keep working and put God first.
“It’s not easy. You’ve got to go out there and put in the work and put a lot of time and energy in the classroom to get here. Being on an island is tough but if you really want it bad you have to sacrifice - whether it be in basketball or not.”
Hield was efficient in the minutes he stepped onto the floor in this one. With a season average of 29.40 minutes played thus far the former Oklahoma Sooner needed just 18 minutes in this contest, to compile the most points for his team.
“We just wanted to come out and be aggressive, get stops and get openings to make the right plays and score the basketball the way we do best,” he shared.
In reference to his individual performance, Hield attributed it to just being in the flow of the game.
“It was the game-flow - just being in the right spots at the right time. My teammates were able to find me and we were able to capitalize off that. Everyone did a good job moving the ball around and finding the right spots to pick the defense apart.”
The win pushes the Kings back over the .500 mark.. As of this writing, the team sits in ninth place in a stacked Western Conference. Every game becomes crucial as teams jockey for a play-off spot as the season goes on and this win was a confidence boost for the young Kings, according to Hield..
“I think this is big for this young group and it gives us confidence moving forward to the next game, so we could go out there with the right mindset and do the same thing we did here (against Phoenix). We’ve got a tough road trip ahead so we have to captialize on every game we play,” Hield expressed.
The Sacramento Kings’ road trip will continue when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers this coming Friday (December 7). That following night (December 8) they are set to face the Indiana Pacers, with the final stop of their road swing, in Chicago when they face the Bulls on December 10.
The Suns will look to rebound tonight when they welcome the visiting Portland Trailblazers. Right after that Ayton and Suns will be on the road when they take on the Miami Heat the following night (December 7).
For the season Hield averages 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. Ayton averages 16.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per night.