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Ayton, Johnson on track to be ready for playoffs as Suns get crucial rest

Deandre Ayton #22 and Cameron Johnson #23 of the Phoenix Suns block out Alex Len #27 of the Toronto Raptors on a free-throw shot during the first half of the NBA game at Phoenix Suns Arena on January 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The NBA schedule this season has been relentless.

The number of back-to-backs, four games in five nights-type scenarios and so on made it quite the effort for playoff teams to just get through the regular season.

So in a way, the week the Phoenix Suns have between their regular season finale and Game 1 of the first round on Sunday is pretty foreign.

It’s a week off from games, but even in terms of just being home, this is the first time the Suns have been able to stay in the Valley this long since a five-game homestand in mid-April.

This, of course, is huge specifically for a Suns team that is dealing with some injuries.

Third-year wing Cam Johnson has missed six straight games due to a right wrist sprain. He got his cast off on Monday, per team owner Robert Sarver. Elsewhere, starting center Deandre Ayton sat out the last three games because of left knee soreness.

While Johnson’s three-point percentage is down this year to 34.9%, the gravity he still holds as a shooter and the other ways he helps the team as a defender and ball-mover have made him the number one wing off the bench. Ayton is the team’s lone rim protector, one of the handful of unique positive traits he possesses that other bigs in the rotation do not.

Five days out from the team’s first-round matchup, Suns head coach Monty Williams was asked if those two are on track when it comes to playing Sunday.

“We believe so,” he said Tuesday. “We’re gonna do everything we can to have those guys ready. I don’t want to get too far ahead of today in relation to where we are and those guys, but we believe we are doing everything we can to have those guys ready for the playoffs and that’s our number one goal for those two guys.”

For Johnson, Ayton and their teammates, this is also a great time to briefly disconnect. On top of the much-needed few days to relax, it’s also a time to reset before the most intense and important basketball of the season.

Point guard Chris Paul is entering his 13th postseason and knows this all too well. He’s having some friends and family in town at the start of the week.

“Man I think it can do a lot,” Paul said of this time. “Just the mental aspect of the season. One of our strongest strengths all season was our health. Guys playing back-to-backs, playing games every single night.

“So to get this time to get everybody refreshed, see a few familiar faces, just sort of take your mind off the game, even if it’s just for a day or two, is nice.”

Forward Torrey Craig is on the same page.

“It’s great for us,” he said. “Just let the body recover, your mind. Physically, emotionally the season can be draining. A lot of up and downs, so it’s good to kind of take some time off, come in, go through your routine and relax.”

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