Ayton erupts for 26 points

Coming off one of his lowest scoring outputs of the season, Phoenix Suns starting center DeAndre Ayton had one of his better scoring games, leading his team past the Los Angeles Lakers, 111-94, at the PHX Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday.

Ayton had an efficient day in the office, connecting on 10-for-13 shots and dropping in a game-high 26 points on a Lakers team that was without superstar players LeBron James and Anthony Davis – both out with injuries. Ayton added eight rebounds and two assists, and is still averaging a double-double on the season – 14.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest.

Devin Booker matched Ayton for game-high honors with 26 points, and Chris Paul had a triple-double with 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds as the Suns cruised to victory – their 17th in their last 21 games to solidify their spot in second in the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). They have a 28-13 win/loss record, a game ahead of the Lakers in the standings. The Utah Jazz lead the west, and have the league’s top record overall, at 30-11.

The Bahamian post player had a number of highlight-reel dunks on the evening, including on an alley-oop pass in the third quarter, which turned out to be Paul’s 10,000th assist. Paul became the sixth player in NBA history with 10,000 assists.

Ayton was a force in the middle on both ends of the court. He and the Suns raced out to a 15-point lead at the half, and the Lakers got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

After having a 10-game double-digit scoring streak snapped in their last contest in which he shot just 3-for-7 from the field, Ayton had one of his more efficient games from the field on Sunday. The 22-year-old center matched his third-best shooting performance from the field on Sunday, missing just three shots.

For the season, Ayton is shooting a career-high 60.4 percent from the field – seventh-best in the NBA. He is 11th in the league in rebounding.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Suns, and four of the five starters have plus/minus stats of +20 or higher.

The Lakers played without 17-time All-Star James for just the second time this season and fell to 0-2 in his absence. James suffered a high ankle sprain in a 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and is expected to miss significant time.

The Lakers were led 23 points and 10 rebounds from the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell. Point guard Dennis Schroder added 22 points.

Led by Ayton, the Suns shot 48.3 percent from the field (42-for-87) compared to 41.2 percent for the Lakers (35-for-85). The Suns also shot better from distance – 9-for-32 compared to 5-for-25 for the Lakers. Led by Paul, the Suns also dished out 30 assists compared to 20 for the Lakers. They controlled the tempo of the game throughout and led by as much as 18 in the wire-to-wire win.

Ayton and the Suns will travel to South Florida to face the Miami Heat on Tuesday, starting an Eastern road trip in which they will play four games in six days.

The other Bahamian in the NBA, Sacramento Kings guard Chavano “Buddy” Hield, had 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field and 7-for-13 shooting from three point land, but it came in a 129-105 loss for the Kings to the Philadelphia 76ers, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.

Hield and the Kings took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, Ohio, last night, but the result of that game was unavailable up to press time.