PHOENIX SUNS

Suns’ Devin Booker, Chris Paul proud of Deandre Ayton’s postseason leap

Jun 4, 2021, 1:04 AM | Updated: 1:35 am

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)...

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul, center Deandre Ayton is the third piece in the Phoenix Suns big three.

In his third year in the NBA, the former Arizona Wildcat won the first playoff series of his career after Thursday night’s 113-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6.

And coming into the postseason, the question wasn’t necessarily if Ayton could step up — he’s shown glimpses of having that ability — but rather if the Suns center could sustain that excellence over the course of a playoff series.

Ayton averaged 15.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and shot a ridiculous 79.6% from the field over the course of the six-game series with the Lakers.

“Having a conversation with Deandre and seeing the leap that he made during this series — nobody is harder on DA than I am,” Suns guard Devin Booker said postgame. “It’s been like that for a few years.

“So I know he has a lot of different voices in his ear between me, coach (Monty Williams) and Chris (Paul). I know he’s hearing a lot. I just told him I was so proud of him for seeing the leap and we still have a lot of work to do. We didn’t come into the season to say we want to win one series and be done. We have a lot of work to do.”

Paul noted postgame that Lakers forward LeBron James was able to get downhill and drive to the rim pretty easily at times.

The Suns point guard added that James will play “bully ball” against smaller defenders, but the likes of Ayton in the paint forced him to kick out to his Laker teammates along the perimeter.

“DA was a beast. It’s almost like he was like to hell with the regular season — just let the playoffs get here,” Paul said. “With the team that we have, I wouldn’t rather be here and win with a different group of guys. All these guys deserve it and I’m happy for them.”

With the Suns advancing to the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, Ayton will get a chance to go up against MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.

That series begins on Monday night as Game 1 tips off at 7 p.m. at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Catch all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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